I watched Trump’s speech in Missouri, not because I was interested in what he had to say about tax cuts (another of his agenda items that is likely DOA), but because I wanted to see if he had anything to say about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. That is the name given to President Obama’s executive order that protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, otherwise known as DREAMers. He didn’t address the issue.
There is a reason why many people have been suggesting that an announcement about that program is imminent. A federal court in Texas halted a similar program for parents of childhood arrivals to the U.S. (DAPA), but the case is ongoing. Litigants have said that if Trump doesn’t halt the DACA program before September 5th, they would add it to the court challenge on DAPA. At that point, the administration would have to decide whether or not to defend DACA in court—a responsibility that would be up to AG Sessions.
Much has been made about the idea that Trump himself is torn about what to do.
The president has waffled between his campaign pledge to kill the policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and his sympathy for the nearly 800,000 people whose lives could be upended if it’s repealed, aides say.
As an unofficial Sept. 5 deadline looms, there are growing signs that Trump will decide to phase out the program. But administration officials say he remains conflicted, trying to find a middle ground that balances his instinct to be tough on immigration and his personal feelings.
While I’d like to stay open to the possibility that this president is capable of having feelings for someone other than himself, I have not seen any indication of that yet. So I’m guessing that his hesitancy has more to do with the kind of thing we heard about his decision on what to do about Afghanistan—a conflict among his staffers.
The president’s top aides are divided on DACA. While White House chief of staff John Kelly supports the program, policy adviser Stephen Miller and his deputies on the Domestic Policy Council are pushing the president to get rid of it.
But even that statement is misleading. If you remember, prior to becoming chief of staff, Kelly was Sec. of DHS and pretty ruthlessly ignored how DACA affected those who were rounded up for deportation. Last July he told members of the Hispanic Caucus that he didn’t think the program would survive a court challenge and refused to promise that the administration would defend it in court.
With that in mind, it seems that the disagreement within the Trump administration right now is not about whether to end DACA or keep it, but how to end it. Here are the three options that have been floated:
- Do nothing, let the court challenge proceed, and refuse to defend it.
- Prevent future applicants and possibly renewals.
- End it altogether.
The only difference between #2 and #3 is timing. On the first option, it important to note that when the injunction halting the DAPA program reached the Supreme Court, it was prior to the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch, and the result among the remaining justices was a 4/4 tie, thereby affirming the ruling of the lower court. That doesn’t bode well for what might happen with the DACA case, although it stands on somewhat sounder legal footing.
One way or another, we’ll know which path this will ultimately take by next Tuesday. The fate of approximately 800,000 DREAMers is on the line.