The battle over illegal immigration just kicked into high gear, as President Trump has decided to scrap Barack Obama’s ill-conceived and unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The administration will, however, delay enforcement for six months, so as to give Congress time to act. This is stellar news—a big win American workers and the rule of law.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday explained the administration’s rationale for ending the program. “To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here,” Sessions said. “That is an open border policy and the American people have rightly rejected it.”
“This does not mean they are bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way,” Sessions added. “It means we are properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them.”
DACA has long been seen by those vociferously opposed to illegal immigration as Obama’s greatest betrayal of the American people—it is de facto amnesty to say nothing of an unconstitutional overreach of presidential authority. President Trump campaigned in part on ending the program.
For those not familiar with DACA, here is the run-down: President Obama signed an executive order in June 2012 thatallowed all illegal aliens who arrived in America before they were age 16 to apply for legal work permits, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and made them eligible for earned income-tax credits. Enrollment must be renewed every two years. Since 2012, nearly 800,000 illegal aliens have taken advantage of the program. Most of them were adults. Essentially, DACA grants participants the rights and privileges normally associated with legal entry into America: it is renewable amnesty. The dangers of DACA are manifold and (should be) self-evident, but they are worth revisiting in light of recent events—if only to strengthen our resolve.
The biggest problem with DACA is that it undermines the rule of law—and not simply the trouble caused by granting legal status to those who have none. The problem is even more fundamental. In signing DACA, President Obama overstepped the bounds of his authority and violated the sacrosanct division of powers laid out in the Constitution. DACA was, and is, a usurpation of legislative power—it is a knife in Congress’ back (though in relieving the pressure lawmakers seem to feel about actually legislating on matters concerning immigration, it appears to be a welcome one).
This republic was constructed according to several axioms, one being that different arms of government have different parts to play, and that each arm checks and balances the others. Congress is the seat of legislative authority. It makes, amends, and repeals laws. Congress also has power of the purse. The office of the president is the seat of executive authority; the president enforces the law and serves as our commander-in-chief (in addition to having a number of atavistic powers inherited from the British Crown for convenience’s sake).
President Obama pushed DACA because Congress was unwilling to legislate on the subject—as was the legislative branch’s prerogative. The president does not have the right to create stopgap legislation like DACA, and the fact the DACA has remained in place this long is a testament to Congress’ weakness. Ironically, even Obama was aware of this, at least theoretically. Obama himself said in 2011, “for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.” That is correct. Trump must scrap DACA to restore some semblance of balance to our government.
Bad Incentive, Bad Precedent
DACA also created an enormous incentive for people to enter the United States illegally—as might be expected with any other form of amnesty. DACA sends a clear message to the millions of poor who would migrate to America: beat our border guards in a game of “Red Rover” and we will (eventually) let you stay.
Amnesty is not a solution, it is part of the problem—it transforms America into a giant lure. The evidence for this is overwhelming: it is no secret that DACA caused an unprecedented spike in youth migration into America. Likewise, recall how the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted 2.7 million people legal status, set off the greatest tidal wave of illegal immigration in U.S. history. At the time, President Reagan said amnesty would be a one-time-only fix. Now compare that to the approach President Eisenhower took when he deported nearly 3 million illegal migrants: no more came for some 30 years.
Incentives matter. DACA is counter-productive: it simply creates more of the problem it is designed to address.
Finally, President Trump is right to scrap DACA on economic grounds. Why? Supply and demand.
Consider the apple market: if the supply of apples increases, what happens? The price of apples goes down. But if a stiff frost kills off most the apples, leading to a shortage, the price of apples rises since there are fewer apples to go around.
Labor markets work the same way: more workers mean lower wages, fewer workers mean higher wages. DACA adds some 720,000 legal workers into the U.S. market—these people compete with American workers, driving down wages and boosting unemployment. This is axiomatic: even the pro-DACA Cato Institute acknowledges this fact, saying that American companies will begin “recruiting, hiring, and training” Americans to fill the void.
Theory aside, the evidence for this fact is overwhelming. Before Hurricane Harvey, President Trump’s crackdown on illegal aliens had already caused wages for construction workers to rise by 30 percent (half of Texas’ construction workers were illegal aliens). In light of recent events, their wages will likely rise even higher—but we can still attribute a significant portion of said rise to labor market constrictions.
Likewise, towns in Maine were forced to hire American workers after the availability of visas for temporary foreign workers declined. What happened? Unemployment decreased, wages increased, and working conditions improved in order to attract American workers—all good things. Illegal labor has completely undermined U.S. labor markets, and hurt millions of American citizens; the only people benefiting are the very rich. Illegal immigration is bad for the economy: this is an empirical fact, not a point of contention.
For five long years, DACA has enshrined the rights of illegal aliens and in effect put them above those of American citizens. It is a slap in the face to Congress, the rule of law, and the common man. President Trump’s decision to scrap DACA, if he follows through, should go down as one of the highlights of his presidency.