President Trump never manages to take responsibility for any political failure or controversy. We saw this vividly in his handling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. He could not even manage on an issue of such grave importance to deliver the message personally. Instead, he sent out longtime anti-immigrant advocate Attorney General Jeff Sessions (never has there been a harsh measure limiting immigration, nor any border extravagance he did not support) to deliver the news. He declared that the program would be “rescinded.” He blithely declared, “We cannot admit everyone who would like to come here.” But DACA recipients are already here and were brought here as children. The action is so indefensible that Session had to resort to platitudes from the anti-immigrant handbook. One wonders how his speech writer could have penned such a line as “there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws.” That is rich for someone who is forcing a gratuitously cruel action. Invoking the fear of criminality, Sessions of course ignored that DACA recipients have already been screened for criminal activity. They are among the safest immigrants we have.
Sessions announced in advance he would not take questions, one more sign of the intellectual cowardice and lack of accountability that are the hallmarks of the anti-immigrant advocates pushing for DACA repeal.
Trump hid behind a tweet telling Congress to fix DACA. He declared, “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!” He claims to “love dreamers.” That’s entirely disingenuous. There was no need to pull the trigger on DACA. No lawsuit compels it; the aggressive conservative attorneys general haven’t even filed their threatened lawsuit, which could take years to reach a final decision. It is Trump who is setting in motion a disruptive and fear-inducing measure that affects 800,000 or so young people brought here as children. It is Trump who could, but has not, presented actual legislation to Congress. It is Trump who could insist, but has not, that DACA legislation be included in the debt-ceiling measure, the Harvey relief funding bill, the budget or other must-pass legislation.
The false emergency in the form of a faux constitutional deadline that Trump and Sessions hide behind is belied by the conditions they place upon DACA’s repeal. Trump will allow pending applications filed before today to be processed. How is that possible if the measure is unconstitutional? Trump will also reportedly allow those with permits that will expire before March 5, 2018, to renew their permit for two years. How is that possible if the measure is unconstitutional? In trying to soften the blow of a heartless policy, the Trump administration reveals that it is making up constitutional rules as it goes along.
Then there is the claim that immigration officials will not prioritize DACA recipients for deportation. That’s worthless. Trump has already “prioritized” criminals for deportation but has somehow wound up deporting hundreds of noncriminals. TIME recently reported:
In a four-day operation at the end of July [in San Diego], ICE arrested 650 people. Of those, 457 weren’t targets of the raid. In other words, a full 70% of the immigrants swept up in this operation were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. …
In fiscal year 2016, non-criminals made up 42% of removals. Under the Trump Administration, that proportion has so far increased slightly. According to data provided to TIME by ICE, which is not considered final until the end-of-year report, 44% of removals haven’t had criminal records so far in fiscal year 2017.
“It’s basically a push through a lot of different ways to try to deport as many people as possible without regard to whether or not they’re a public safety threat,” says Kate Voigt, associate director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Trump has more than doubled the number of arrests of noncriminal illegal immigrants. (“According to data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement provided to members of the media Thursday evening, ICE made 75,045 administrative arrests of undocumented immigrants from January to June of 2017. Administrative arrests are used for routine arrests made based on immigration status. Of those, 19,752 of the undocumented immigrants were classified as non-criminals, which is 26% of the total.”)
So make no mistake, the promise that DACA recipients won’t have to fear immediate deportation is entirely unreliable.
Trump would like to blame everyone and anyone for his catastrophic decision — President Barack Obama, Democrats, Congress as a whole, state attorneys general. Congress might — if it suddenly is possessed with a sense of urgency and discovers newfound competence — save Trump from himself. But if Congress does not intervene, Trump will be responsible for a gratuitously cruel action.