CONGRESS IS back from a two-week recess without much of an agenda. Here, therefore, is a constructive and eminently feasible suggestion: Rescue the “dreamers.”
These are the young immigrants raised and educated in the United States whose jobs, prospects and lives have hung in the balance since President Trump last year announced the end of an Obama-era program that protects them from deportation. As legislative recklessness goes, congressional inaction on this issue is extreme. It amounts to a kiss-off for a huge group of people, most of them in their teens and 20s and American in every sense but the narrowly legal one.
For now, federal courts have frozen Mr. Trump’s effort to rescind the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and the protections it affords nearly 700,000 dreamers, to say nothing of even more who were once eligible to enroll. The deportation squads are temporarily in check, but the dreamers are nonetheless in limbo, working and studying as usual yet fully aware that a wrecking ball hangs over their futures.
Expecting courage and resolve from Congress may seem foolish, but it would take only modest amounts of both to fix DACA, given that about three-quarters of Americans favor granting dreamers a way to remain legally in the country. Rather than use them as political hostages — by Republicans to demand concessions limiting immigration, and by Democrats to bludgeon Republicans — both sides could easily enact legislation to give them legal status or a path to citizenship.
Nor would it take herculean valor to pass legislation doing what Democratic leaders have already proposed — trading $25 billion to build Mr. Trump’s border wall for a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million dreamers, a cohort that includes those who enrolled in DACA as well as about 1.1 million others who were eligible to enroll but didn’t. The wall is a foolish idea and will never be fully built, but the authorization is worthwhile if it would protect these young people once and for all.
The dreamer question is unlikely to remain in suspended animation indefinitely. Many experts expect that the courts eventually will allow Mr. Trump’s rescission of DACA to go forward, deferring to the executive branch’s broad authority on immigration.
If and when that happens, hundreds of thousands of young people, their work permits suddenly worthless, will be thrown out of jobs. A population the size of Seattle or Denver will have their lives upended at a stroke. College students, income stunted, will have to drop out. A parade of promising young people will be left wondering what happened to their American dreams.
As for Mr. Trump, his most recent expectorations about DACA were baffling. He blamed Democrats for the absence of any deal to preserve DACA while denouncing the program as a misbegotten magnet for swarms of undocumented immigrants.
Hello? If DACA is a travesty, its assassins are heroes — that’s what follows from the president’s logic. But then, little about his DACA gyrations makes sense or respects facts. Democrats have indeed tried, imperfectly, for progress on DACA. Mr. Trump and other Republicans have thwarted them.