Now, let me begin this piece with the caveat that I don’t believe the philosophy of “no let’s just take as empathetic a route as possible and help people” to necessarily be an invalid one. However, what I do want to do is explore the thought process behind the recent DACA decision from reasoning based in the current political paradigm, and what that means.
If you hadn’t heard, DACA, an executive order issued by Barrack Obama in 2012 that allowed those who had been brought to America illegally as children to have any deportation delayed for renewable two year periods and apply for things like a workers permit, has been announced by Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be rescinded, marking the start of a 2 year wind-down period for that order.
Most can agree that the plight of these children, many of whom have grown up knowing only America, speaking English fluently, and becoming productive members of society, is a cruel one, and indeed, many Republican law makers have issued statements expressing support for these people and suggesting we should be cutting them some slack.
What reason then, would one have to rescind DACA? Well, cutting through all the potential motivations that will inevitably spring up like racism and xenophobia, there is one clear thought process.
The basic provisions of DACA were contained within a bill called the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which had been getting proposed and failing to pass in Congress since 2001. Specifically, under Obama it made progress on multiple occasions only to fail in the Senate because while it was able to get over 50 votes (more than half), it couldn’t reach the 60 votes required to get past what we’ll call Fucky Congressional Procedure (don’t want to get too bogged down in political mechanics).
Eventually Obama had had enough of This Shit, and so took matters into his own hands by issuing an executive order, DACA, that would put a number of the DREAM Act’s provisions into place. This is the primary point of contention.
What very blatantly occurred was a circumvention of the Legislative branch of the government by the Executive branch. The former is supposed to pass the laws, but when they didn’t do what the latter wanted, they just did it themselves, which elicited many upset accusations of Obama overstepping his political authority.
The irony of course, is that what can be instituted by the decree of a singular figure, can be rescinded by that same figure, and so the Republicans’s job was far easier than it would’ve been if the DREAM Act had passed into law and now been something they would’ve had to repeal.
The stance that has been taken is that DACA was an overstepping of presidential authority, and that if we as a country want its provisions in place we should be getting to that point through the proper means, Congress. This is why after the announcement Trump tweeted “Now it’s time for Congress to do their job,” and why at that announcement Jeff Sessions said during this 2 years of wind-down Congress will now have the opportunity to pass DACA’s provisions into law if they do indeed believe that they should be.
Now, one would rightly question how much of an investment Trump actually has in curtailing the President’s authority over immigration, considering that his executive ordered travel ban went far enough to be found unconstitutional by the courts and had to be edited to a more scaled-back version, but the underlying logic as things pertain to DACA is at least comprehensible and consistent.
From a political standpoint the consistent increase in presidential power throughout the decades has been somewhat worrisome. Presidents now have FAR more power than they used to, and it certainly needs to stop at some point.
These sentiments of mine are somewhat dismissive of the genuine human concerns DACA matters to, being based in a somewhat cold realm of political theory, I’ll admit that bias, but I do believe it to be an interesting, and critically, an important perspective to be aware of.
Firstly, because this is the perspective much of the political system is operating from, and secondly, because knowing all this we are given a path forward. The proverbial ball is now in Congress’s court; it is, for better or for worse, up to them. Various Republican lawmakers have expressed support for those who will be affected by DACA, and so now it’s on those who care about DACA to put those lawmakers’ feet to the fire.
Senators like John McCain and Lindsay Graham had pulled their initial support of the DREAM Act in past votes, and have now said DACA beneficiaries deserve some help. Activists need to hold them accountable to ensure that those statements aren’t just friendly platitudes that these people don’t act upon. Immigration reform is notoriously difficult to get law passed on, hence the exasperation-fueled move by Obama to go over Congress’s head on the matter.
It can only be through applied pressure, and if it comes down to it making sure that making these statements of support but failing to actually act upon them is punished politically, that those affected by DACA will be protected, because as messy and frustrating as it may be, that’s how politics works.
Distasteful as you may find it, arming yourself with the knowledge of how this system works is integral to making sure that in some small capacity it acknowledges and protects those you care about.
I mean, I just like doing so because I’m a big ole poli-sci geek, but I hope that for any given person I’ve been able to offer an enlightening or at the least interesting perspective, and if you’re so inclined provided some direction for your activist energies to be funneled towards.