S.D.U.T. Commentary

The Real Problem with DACA

(Steve Breen)


In June 2012, after admitting that he did not have the authority to do it, President Barack Obama signed an executive order of dubious constitutional and legal validity granting temporary legal status to unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children.

Amnesty by whatever name is still an amnesty; known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, over 750,000 otherwise unauthorized immigrants have been granted amnesty, which, among other things, includes work permits for a renewable two-year period.

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During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to return the rule of law to the nation’s immigration policy by vigorously enforcing the laws passed by Congress over many decades. While his pledge to build a wall received the most attention, his promise to fix our immigration system included many other essential components. Among them, he promised to push for universal use of a free, online system called E-Verify designed to keep unauthorized immigrants from getting jobs in the U.S., or stated another way, to prevent American employers from hiring unauthorized immigrants, which has been the principal goal of immigration restrictionists since the 1880s. He also pledged to re-energize interior enforcement, which had been abandoned by the Obama administration, and to locate, arrest and deport every person illegally present, as federal law requires.

Also included was his pledge to end DACA, which he correctly described as a massive expansion of the authority of the president to act without congressional approval using executive orders.

It is the responsibility of Congress, not the president, to establish who can, and who cannot, enter this country.

The fact that Congress refused to provide relief for those brought here by their parents illegally did not justify the president acting unilaterally to change the immigration laws.

Congressional inaction does not confer extraordinary dictatorial powers on a president to act on his own; otherwise, anytime any president was unable to convince Congress to enact any presidential initiative, he could do whatever he wanted, which is not what our founding fathers had in mind when they adopted our Constitution of limited government and separation of powers.

Why create a legislative body if the president can ignore it and dictate whatever he wants?

But the real problem with DACA, as with any form of amnesty, is the message it sends to the billions of poor and suffering people from around the world who would give anything to come here.

That message says — if you can get here by hook or by crook — sooner or later we will give you legal status, let you stay, so you can then sponsor all your relatives to join you. Amnesties guarantee new, future illegal immigration.

There is no disputing that the massive amnesty provided by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) — 2.7 million people were granted legal status — contributed to the greatest wave of illegal immigration in the nation’s history.

Since 2012, when the president invented DACA, we have seen unprecedented waves of illegal alien youth — unaccompanied minors — flood the border and receive temporary legal status.

More broadly, any benefit in any form provided to unauthorized immigrants encourages more illegal immigration. The greatest benefit is a job, the primary reason most people immigrate legally or illegally. That benefit could be easily and immediately removed by making E-Verify mandatory, and permitting DHS/ICE to vigorously investigate employers who knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants. But the Chamber of Commerce and other employer lobbyists have successfully persuaded Congress to keep the pipeline open, by blocking a nationwide roll-out of E-Verify.

But there are many other benefits that likewise serve to encourage illegal immigration. Any form of taxpayer support, including especially free public education (certainly the most expensive item provided by taxpayers), medical care, public housing, in-state tuition and many more all provide incentives for people to come illegally.

Add to that list driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants to make it easier for them to hide in plain sight, and the “support” provided by various state and local sanctuary jurisdictions that actively seek to defy federal law to shield unauthorized immigrants from arrest by federal authorities.

And, the latest harebrained idea of letting unauthorized immigrants join the military; is this another job “Americans won’t do”? How many young men from around the world will see that as a quick way to earn U.S. citizenship?

The aim of the law is to encourage adherence to, and discourage violations of, the law. DACA and every other benefit in any form that makes it easier for an unauthorized immigrants to avoid the consequences of their illegal conduct is wrong, and will only perpetuate illegal immigration.

Editor’s note: The author’s references to “illegal aliens” were changed. It is Union-Tribune style to describe immigrants who do not have permission to be in the U.S. as “unauthorized immigrants.”