By editorial board • 

Congress now last resort for nation’s Dreamers

Former President Barack Obama was the architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, designed to grant a safe haven to children who didn’t enter the U.S. of their own volition and may not know any language, culture or homeland other than ours. He implemented the action by executive order in 2012, after a deeply divided Congress failed once again to agree on comprehensive and coherent immigration reform.

He was also one of the most eloquent presidents ever to grace the office. So it came as no great surprise when he issued a stirring declaration in DACA’s defense, after President Donald Trump moved Sept. 3 to place it on six months’ life support.

“Ultimately, this is about basic decency,” Obama said in his first major public policy declaration since leaving office. “This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people — and who we want to be.”

What does come as a surprise is this recent polling, reported in The Atlantic: Nearly 80 percent of Republicans join nearly 100 percent of Democrats in supporting exemption of the nation’s 800,000 “Dreamers” from deportation. So do 75 percent of Trump’s own base of supporters, widely viewed as the most militant of the hard core.

Even the president seemed to support DACA’s basic underlying premise: He said he was moving to terminate the program because the Constitution leaves immigration policy to Congress, rendering Obama’s unilateral action invalid. He said he was staying its demise for six months to give Congress time to act, and urged it to do so.

Trump’s hand was forced by 10 attorneys general, who threatened to challenge the constitutionality of the Obama order if Trump didn’t revoke it by Sept. 5. They believed Neil Gorsuch’s elevation to the Supreme Court virtually assured them of the votes they needed. 

They were among 26 who succeeded in blocking Obama’s attempt to expand DACA later in his second term. Tellingly, the other 16 refused to join in challenging core protection for the DACA Dreamers, despite hailing almost exclusively from Republican enclaves.

Already, 16 attorneys general standing on the other side of the issue, including Oregon’s Ellen Rosenblum, have announced plans to challenge Trump’s order in turn. Their action underscores the deep divisions that have developed between red states blue states.

Despite the fact that there is broad support for comprehensive immigration reform, and even more sizable support for Dreamer protection, the devil is in the details. Given Trump’s top priorities — re-privatizing health care, building a costly and controversial border wall and cutting corporate taxes — demanding Congress produce a broadly acceptable set of details in the next six months, when it has been unable to do so during the last six years, is practically a dream in itself.


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