The nation’s roughly 700,000 young immigrants who have come to be known as dreamers can derive little long-term security from Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that kept in place a program allowing them to stay in the country legally.
As we have said many times, the future of these young people, who came to the United States as children through no action of their own, won’t be secure until Congress passes a bipartisan bill that codifies a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
That ought to be a priority, and it shouldn’t be hard to accomplish. As a Pew Research Center pollfound this month, 74% of Americans want to grant permanent legal status to these immigrants. Even when broken down by party affiliation, 54% of those who lean Republican said the same thing.
Despite his executive order rescinding President Obama’s creation of the DACA program through his own executive order, President Trump also has expressed support for making these children legal residents. In a 2017 tweet, he characterized them as “good, educated and accomplished young people, who have jobs, some serving in the military … They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own — brought in by parents at a young age.”
That’s an apt description, and a well-stated argument for allowing them to become legal residents.
Trump’s decision to rescind Obama’s order seemed to be an attempt to spur Congress to action. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. As long as presidents issue executive orders and courts rule on the constitutionality of those orders, Congress will feel no pressure to act.
Even Thursday’s decision, which allows dreamers to breathe a temporary sigh of relief, took pressure off congressional work that was underway to craft a compromise.
But it didn’t bring any closure to the issue.
As President Obama crafted it, DACA came with strict rules. Only those who could show they had been in the United States since before the age of 16, were currently no older than 30, had lived here at least five years, were either in school, had graduated from high school, earned a GED or were an honorably discharged veteran and could show they had committed no serious crimes were eligible. The program did not put them on a path to citizenship but allowed them to remain in the country legally.
It would be hard to find fault with rules like that. The only problem is that those rules ought to have been codified by Congress, not issued in an executive order that one day could be rescinded by a future president.
It’s important to note that Thursday’s court ruling did not decide whether the administration could rescind DACA. It merely declared that the Trump administration had not followed the appropriate procedure to do so. Namely, it had not provided “a reasoned explanation for its action.”
The Trump administration, the court said, could try again.
We hope that doesn’t happen. The dreamers are valuable economic and cultural contributors to American society. Support for them crosses party lines.
Former Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch issued a statement Thursday that said, “Many of these men and women have been on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19 and have contributed to our economy in invaluable ways. They have helped build the America we know today and deserve a seat at the table.”
It’s high time Congress stopped its own deferred action and crafted what ought to be an achievable compromise that allows the dreamers to permanently breathe easy. Otherwise, Thursday’s victory at the Supreme Court could be short-lived.