Guest Editorial: Action needed on DACA despite court ruling

Farmington Daily Times
Guest Editorial

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the Trump administration’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling blocking the planned March 5 termination of the DACA program.

With that decision, the fate of litigation over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will remain with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, in a process that could take months. Current participants will be allowed to renew their status until that is resolved.

Even with the March 5 deadline removed, Congress should not continue kicking a DACA fix down the road. A permanent, legislative solution is what’s needed, not more politicking and more litigation.

Created in 2012 by executive action to defer deportation proceedings against young people brought to the United States illegally as children, DACA has offered protection to 800,000 people whose sole offense is having been brought here. About 1.8 million undocumented immigrants are thought to qualify for DACA protections.

Far from indiscriminate, DACA was designed to be highly selective. Among other things, those eligible must have come to the country before they were 16, continuously lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 and must either be in school, have obtained a GED or high school diploma or have served in the American military.

Public opinion surveys have consistently shown that most Americans, including most Republicans, support allowing the so-called “Dreamers” to stay. A recent CBS polls found that 87 percent of Americans hold that view, including 79 percent of Republicans.
Given the widespread support for a DACA fix, it is unfortunate that DACA has become yet another political football, with the fates of millions of young people held hostage to political gamesmanship like pointless government shutdowns.

Only on Feb. 15 did we finally get some votes and clarity on the matter, as the U.S. Senate failed to pass multiple versions of immigration packages trading a DACA fix for varying border security measures.

A proposal by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and John McCain, R-Arizona, to provide a path to citizenship for the 1.8 million young people in exchange for increased border security measures, plus funding for additional immigration judges, received 52 votes in favor, 47 against, well short of the 60 

Another bill put forward by the “Common Sense Caucus” led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, called for a path to citizenship along with $25 billion in funding for border security over the next decade. That bill received 54 votes in favor, 45 against.

A bill backed by President Trump and introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, fared the worst. Like the other two proposals, the bill provided a path to citizenship, but it also provided $25 billion for a southern border wall. Unlike the others, the proposal would end the diversity visa lottery program and what opponents call chain migration and supporters family reunification. That bill received just 39 votes in support, 60 votes against.

Evidently, Trump’s preference for packing a DACA fix with non-border security programs is simply infeasible and unpopular even with many Republicans. So, it seems clear to us that a DACA fix must come either as a clean bill or a compromise bill focused on border security specifically.

With 10 million additional undocumented immigrants to deal with, a legal immigration system that could use reform and a heated debate to have over President Trump’s proposed wall, Congress should have the decency to pass a DACA fix now and prove reasonable compromise is possible.

Orange County Register, Feb. 27