It's often been said that President Trump is a man of no true political convictions (apart from “winning"). And as The Washington Post's Philip Bump notes today, it often seems that Trump takes every position on an issue in hopes of never being fully pinned down — or blamed.
But Trump's malleability is rarely as striking as it has been on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. His decision Tuesday to phase out the Obama-era executive action exempting the children of undocumented immigrants from deportation was pitched in all kinds of hugely inconsistent ways. Some of the justifications for the decision ran counter to Trump's own past statements; others were contradicted by Trump himself within a matter of hours.
The biggest contradiction came in a tweet late Tuesday, in which Trump suggested — after a day of stating that Obama's program was illegal and that Congress was required to act on it — that he might be able to revisit the issue himself.
Below is a recap of all the conflicting signals on DACA from the administration on and Trump himself through the years.
July 2015: Yes, “immediately.”
Trump: “I will immediately terminate President Obama's illegal executive order on immigration, immediately”
August 2016: Yes, “immediately.”
Trump: “We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties, in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants.”
November 2016: “We’re going to work something out.”
Trump: “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud … They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
January 2017: “They shouldn't be very worried.”
Trump: “They shouldn't be very worried. I do have a big heart. We're going to take care of everybody. We're going to have a very strong border. We're gonna have a very solid border. Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried.”
Tuesday: We’ll end it … gradually.
Trump: “This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out. Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months. Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”
Later Tuesday: Maybe not?
Trump tweeted that he would “revisit” the issue if Congress can't fix it.
Whether DACA is illegal
Early Tuesday: Yes.
The administration labeled the program as executive overreach and said it was unconstitutional. From Trump's statement: “The Attorney General of the United States, the Attorneys General of many states, and virtually all other top legal experts have advised that the program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court. There can be no path to principled immigration reform if the executive branch is able to rewrite or nullify federal laws at will.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in announcing the decision, “Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
Late Tuesday: Maybe not?
Whether Congress needs to act
Early Tuesday: It must.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added at her briefing: “This is something that needs to be fixed legislatively, and we have confidence that they're going to do that.”
Later Tuesday: Maybe not.
That undocumented immigrants take Americans' jobs
Sessions: “The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of minors at the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”
2012: “It doesn't work that way.”
Trump appeared on “Fox and Friends” and disagreed with the entire premise that undocumented immigrants steal jobs:
Obviously, the concept is that you throw everybody out and everybody else gets a job, but it doesn't work that way. A lot of the jobs that these people have, a lot of other people don't want. You know that and I know that, and you see it all the time. Whether it's picking grapes or doing something else, you have jobs that a lot of people aren't going to want, so I don't think it's as complicated as that. We really have to come up with a solution, and we also have to have a solution with compassion. We have to show some compassion. We can't just throw everybody out.
The undocumented immigrants should self-deport
ABC's Cecilia Vega reported that sources in the administration said this talking point was sent to Congress on Tuesday: “The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States — including proactively seeking travel documentation …”
2012: Self-deportation is “crazy” and “maniacal.”
Trump told Newsmax 2012 in reference to losing presidential candidate Mitt Romney's self-deportation proposal: “He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal. … It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote.”