How do we reconcile compassion with justice? How can we show compassion to Dreamers, but at the same time hold those who broke the law accountable for their actions? Those are the questions at the center of the debate over the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
In 2012, President Barack Obama took unilateral executive action and created a stopgap measure, DACA, which ordered prosecutorial discretion to prevent deportation of undocumented people who were brought to United States as children. Within five years, the program encompassed approximately 800,000 children of illegal immigrants, predominantly from Central and South American countries.
President Obama undertook the action alone. He had no congressional mandate, and no existing statutory basis to legally pursue the policy. Whatever its intentions, DACA is unconstitutional. In this country, the legislature creates the law, and the president enforces it. A companion order to DACA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), was already struck down by federal courts in United States v. Texas. The same states that won U.S. v. Texas filed a nearly identical lawsuit against DACA.
President Donald Trump, advised that the courts would strike down DACA because it was unconstitutional, announced in September that he was winding down the program and set a March 5 deadline to allow Congress to find a solution.
Most Democrats are pursuing a “clean Dream Act”–a law offering current DACA recipients citizenship with no strings attached, with no other immigration reforms, and with no new border security measures.
Is that a “clean” bill, or is it legislation that ignores the primary problem–illegal immigration–and addresses only one symptom of that issue: those who were brought here as children? Perhaps the approach is “clean,” but it’s also shortsighted and irresponsible.
No one is disputing the dilemma: These children are here because their parents illegally entered our country and brought them along. They had no control of the situation and are now in our country illegally at no fault of their own. However, if we give them a pathway to citizenship without even attempting to secure our border and reform immigration policies, we will face this problem again 20 years from now.
Without border security, all other efforts at systemic immigration reform will fail. I’m not naïve enough to believe that we can prevent all illegal immigration, but shouldn’t we at least be addressing it again, especially in this light? If Democrats are unwilling to negotiate border security now, with a crisis affecting more than 1 million people, then when will they come to the table?
Strong border security is a shared interest of all American citizens. During my time in Congress, I have spent more than a fair share of time researching this issue. I’ve stood at the border in Tijuana. I’ve seen firsthand the physical and electronic security measures that we must replicate elsewhere on the border. As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I’ve spent hours below ground in a secure room, examining documents that prove there are massive security threats brewing across South and Central America.
Contrary to what the left may have you think, I don’t lock my doors because I hate the people on the outside. I lock them because I love the people on the inside. As aspiring U.S. citizens, shouldn’t the Dreamers want a strong and secure border as much as anyone else, especially since President Trump is willing to give them a pathway to citizenship in exchange?
The White House recently introduced a framework (to be passed by Congress) that holistically addresses both the DACA crisis left by the previous administration and our longstanding border security issues.
It includes a 12-year pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million children of illegal immigrants with requirements for work, education, and good moral character. Along with that offer would come $25 billion for increased border security, including hiring more immigration-focused law enforcement, deterring visa overstays, heightened security at ports of entry and exit, northern border upgrades, and many other improvements.
There are approximately 8,000 Arkansans who are DACA recipients. Many of them are our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers. President Trump has a proposal that allows them to earn their citizenship in return for increased border security. If we work together, accept compromise, and look to the future, we can have both compassion and justice.