President Trump is using the long weekend to finalize the details of his decision on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which will be announced on Tuesday.
Former President Barack Obama's June 2012 executive order establishing DACA was a mistake, but Trump should deliberate more on the program's value. At least to Trump, DACA's value is its use as a bargaining chip, a value that's gone if he eliminates DACA by executive order on Tuesday. He should allow DACA to partially stay in place in exchange for conservative immigration reforms under a comprehensive congressional immigration reform bill. Trump could agree to normalization of those with clean records who were brought here as children as part of a deal for the southern border wall or parts of his favored RAISE Act.
DACA's biggest problem was it being the result of Obama's preference to legislate by executive order rather than through Congress, as the Constitution calls for. Obama put it into place in June 2012 because he was mad voters kicked his Democratic majority out of the House of Representatives and Republicans wouldn't go along with his agenda (and, a cynic might say, because Obama wanted to win over Hispanic voters for his reelection campaign).
As Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Friday, "You can't, as an executive, write law out of thin air."
To fix the DACA problem properly, the ideal solution is through Congress. As Ryan said when asked if Trump should undo DACA himself, "I actually don't think he should do that. I believe that this is something Congress has to fix."
Ryan added that he's spoken with the White House about DACA and that Congress is working on it, which raises the question: Especially if there's agreement between the White House and congressional leaders, what good would it to do erase DACA by executive order? Doing so would destroy any goodwill or progress those conversations created, all for a lousy half-solution.
Morally and practically, it's difficult to justify deporting the nearly-1 million people who had their DACA applications approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. To be eligible, an illegal immigrant had to enter the country as a minor and be under the age of 31 as of the day Obama signed the order. They also must have a largely-clean criminal record. The program does not give legal status or citizenship to those who use it, it merely defers deportation for two years and grants eligibility for a work permit.
Furthermore, to be eligible, an illegal immigrant had to enter the country before June 2007. That means DACA applicants have now been in the country for more than a decade. The question of assimilation is no longer relevant for them, and, given their lack of criminal records, they represent a small threat to public safety.
As Trump told the Washington Examiner's Sarah Westwood in April, "I always understood that, with DACA, we need special heart."
Thankfully, the Trump administration has effectively enforced immigration laws to the point that conceding DACA while ensuring dangerous criminal illegal aliens are deported is a credible concession. Since Trump took office, more than 84,000 convicted criminals, fugitives, and repeat violators have been deported by USCIS. This enforcement has shown that illegal immigration and crimes committed by aliens can be cut significantly without building a wall or deporting assimilated, otherwise-lawful illegal immigrants.
If President Trump does rescind DACA via executive order, it won't be as egregious as Obama's decision to bypass Congress. But it would be a missed opportunity to use DACA reforms as part of a larger, necessary conversation about comprehensive immigration reform. He should continue to defer his decision on DACA until Congress has their say.