Trump lacks consistency in DACA policy

Let’s perform a quick mental exercise together. I want you to try to think back to the 2016 presidential election, back when Trump was just a narcissistic, loud-mouthed, impossibly-still-in-contention Republican candidate and not our commander-in-chief. What were the focal points of his campaign? Though answers will vary by person, there are a few that I think we can all agree on: Hillary Clinton’s supposedly criminal destruction of emails, opposition to Radical Islamic Extremism ™ and a hard line against illegal immigration.
Fast forward to September 2017 and it has become clear that this was all just bloviating rhetoric designed to further enflame an already riotous base. Not a month after his victory on election night, Trump admitted to a faithful crowd of supporters that he didn’t care about “locking up” Clinton anymore. He (obviously) never had a secret master plan to defeat ISIS and other terror cells, which continue to be counteracted by military and intelligence forces put in place by prior administrations. And as for illegal immigration…well nobody really knows what the hell Trump is thinking.
A “yuge” border wall dividing the United States from Mexico was the centerpiece of candidate Trump’s immigration platform and one that bigots and legitimately disenfranchised blue-collar workers alike seized upon. But while it is still a goal of the administration to see it constructed, it’s not the wall that has been making recent headlines: it’s DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
DACA was an immigration policy implemented by the Obama administration in 2012 which enabled qualified individuals who had entered the country illegally as children to be given a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and the opportunity to receive a work permit. In plainer English, it gave peace of mind to undocumented but contributing members of society that they would not be uprooted from their lives. President Trump announced the end of DACA earlier this month.
Beyond the practicality of DACA — most economists agree that it has helped grow the labor force and had no adverse effect on the US economy — it is easy to see the humanitarian elements of this policy. Who wouldn’t want to help good people when they had had no control over their illegal action as children? However, ignored by its advocates is the potential issue of unconstitutionality, in that the executive branch is given the power to enforce immigration laws as decided by the legislature, but not to write their own (26 states sued against expansion of DACA in 2014, a case they ultimately won after reaching the Supreme Court). For this reason, opposition to the program should probably not be categorized as inherently unsympathetic or xenophobic, though of course these are the familiar labels the left has chosen to give to Donald Trump to justify his actions. One curious thing though: many of Trump’s own supporters seem just as angry at him as all his sworn enemies.
While Democrats are convinced that the administration will deport anyone they can get their hands onto, many right-wingers have been taken aback by what they perceive as Trump’s sudden and unexpected softness on what was once one of his most hard-line issues. The very day that AG Jeff Sessions announced the program’s rollback, the president called on Congress in a Tweet to “legalize DACA,” then going on to say that he would “revisit this issue” if no action was taken. Does that sound like somebody who is anti-immigrant? Quite the contrary, those are the words of a man trying to defend a policy he once vehemently opposed.
Adding more fuel to the fire for the right, rhetoric has been backed up by action in this case. Between January and March of this year, nearly 125,000 people have been approved for DACA according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
So what is Trump’s endgame here? There seem to me to be two probable answers. First, this may be just another example of his childish and reactionary politics and he decided to simply change his mind because he could sense the tide of public opinion moving ever further against him. Second, that this is a quid pro quo towards Democrats in Congress, in which he hopes to get their support for wall funding in exchange for legislation on DACA.
Whether or not which one of these (if either) is true, we can learn a valuable lesson from this ongoing saga: President Trump is not an authoritarian demagogue hellbent on imposing his evil will upon the country, because he would need some sort of consistent ideology for that to be the case. This is why I brought up his campaign rhetoric earlier, to show the impressive ease, even by political standards, with which he waffles. Look at the man from now, to one year ago, to five. Beyond the hair and orange complexion, there is no consistency to any of it.
Now the question becomes, “what do we do with this information as responsible citizens?” I suspect that it will ultimately be used as a political bludgeon against Trump, perhaps the first thing that will actually manage to shatter his bizarre image as a maverick or a man of the people. Act like a typical slimy politician and suddenly it will be awful hard for the populists to view you as a savior. But if I could offer a recommendation to the extremes of both sides, this should be a unifying moment where everyone can take a few steps towards the middle.
If the man is in fact just acting like another politician, then that is something we can handle, because we’ve seen it before. You won’t agree with him on everything, but you will be able to communicate, to cut deals, to serve the greater good rather than the interests of a single party. It would allow everyone to calm down and take a deep breath, stop worrying about imminent threats to our country’s very existence coming from inside the government, and actually govern again.

Post Author: Justin Guglielmetti