Even as President Trump completes his first month in office, our country feels divided, our future is uncertain, the issues are many, and the answers few. As conservatives and liberals alike search for guidance and understanding, it’s imperative to keep in mind that while the challenges of today are difficult and complex, they must also produce real answers. DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—is on the top of the list.
Everyone acknowledges that our immigration system is broken. With more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, we are experiencing a crisis of failed policies. Indeed, President Trump forcefully campaigned on the importance of a secure border and its implications for national security and job creation at home—issues that resonated with the public across traditional partisan and socioeconomic distinctions. But a sensible immigration framework can’t be measured in head counts or statistics; it must be considered one human story at a time, as families have been torn apart and innocent children suffer.
The immigration actions taken by the Obama administration over the past eight years have left a complicated and muddled legacy. A record number of deportations have occurred under President Obama, and the Gang of 8 immigration reform bill failed to pass out of the Senate. One bright spot, however, is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the President’s executive order to allow the “DREAMers”—those undocumented immigrants brought here unwittingly as minors by their parents—to avoid deportation if they otherwise remained in compliance with the law. As President Trump’s travel ban has enraged many and taken over the media, we must not forget that DREAMers living inside the United States are uncertain about their future as well.
DREAMers are precisely the segment of the undocumented population that should be allowed to remain in the United States. They bring many things to our communities: a strong work ethic, desire to advance themselves, and a faith and family values bedrock that will only benefit our great country. Each has been vetted through criminal background checks, and have gone on to graduate from college (more than 80 percent work their way through school) and start businesses at twice the rate of the general population.
DACA was beneficial in its substance, but controversial for the way in which it was implemented. President Obama worked around Congress to create the law via executive order. Our democratic system is set up to allow our elected officials to write and pass the laws, not the president. With a change in administration, President Trump has an opportunity to restore the proper separation of powers by resisting the recent drift to executive overreach and returning this kind of authority to Capitol Hill, where members could craft a bill that addresses the whole picture on immigration.
Although the future of DACA remains unclear, this past week President Trump stated in a press conference that he will “deal with DACA with a lot of heart.” As the new administration considers a path forward, it would be in everyone’s best interest if this path could be a democratic one, where Congress enacts legislation and ensures that DREAMers and American citizens alike create a future together. A viable solution for the 750,000 plus people who are currently under DACA protection, would be a first step into solving the major immigration problem in the United States. By working with Congress, this solution would not be one that could be taken away by a signature, like the other executive orders President Obama signed. Instead, it would be created by consensus from all interested parties.
As Leviticus 19:34 reads, “the stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” As the new administration and our elected representatives consider their actions on policies on immigration, this passage should remain top of their minds.
Rev. Derek McCoy serves as the National Director for Clergy Relations at the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE). He has also served as the President of the Maryland Family Alliance, SVP for the High Impact Leadership Coalition.