For Democrats, President Trump’s proposal to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is the civil rights issue of our time. No exaggeration. Just read Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who posted a blistering partisan attack on Facebook:
The emotional and economic toll of President Trump’s cruel immigration policies was plain to see, as DREAMers and their loved ones came forward to share powerful accounts of the chaos that has gripped their families thanks to this administration’s callous actions.
One hardly wonders if there is more to Blumenthal’s interest in “Dreamers” than civil rights. Latino votes are essential to the Democrats’ success in Connecticut, reliably delivering big margins in places like Bridgeport and New Haven. Adding “Dreamers” to voter rolls may just save Connecticut Democrats from a “woke” electorate that realizes it is being done in by a financial crisis of the Democrats’ making.
Connecticut is in a race with Illinois to fiscal insolvency, with deficits exploding, pensions upside-down, taxes climbing, flagship corporate residents fleeing, and the city of Hartford on the verge of filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. Visiting New Haven earlier this week, Blumenthal had no word on federal legislation he’s sponsoring that might arrest Connecticut’s rapid decline. Instead, he’s pandering to illegal immigrants.
Yet in a larger sense, DACA is the most important civil rights issue of all time. The right of a people to govern themselves is no modern problem. The political story of ancient Israel can be said to turn on two events: exodus, the geographical escape from bondage, and kings, a return to bondage of a different sort.
Recall the lines from 1 Samuel 8: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
God warns the Israelites of the future abuses of monarchical power. But the people of Israel insist. There are ups (David and Solomon) and downs (Ahab and Jezebel), but the story is mostly an unhappy one, as God foretold.
Congress, too, has wanted a king. Even before Trump’s election, Congress has not been willing to bear the full burden of its offices. It’s fair to say Congress has made a habit of not legislating. Most of its major accomplishments—the Affordable Care Act, for example, or the Dodd-Frank banking “reform” law—are not sound legislation at all, but delegations of broad power to the executive. Moreover, they were spearheaded and driven by the executive branch. Lawmakers don’t make laws, but rather fashion new customs more suited to the rule of a distant, unwieldy administrative state.
While there should be—there will be—a fight over The Wall, a promise the president must dare not break—Trump supporters should not lose sight of the central issue in ending DACA: the right of people to govern themselves, to have their laws made by a representative legislature, and by no one else.
Under DACA, immigrants who were not lawfully in the United States before this executive order became de facto lawful by virtue of this decree from on high which declared that the executive would not enforce the law.
DACA provides that certain applicants, who under the law are subject to deportation but who can prove (1) they were brought to the United States before they were 16, (2) have lived there continuously since June 15, 2007, and (3) are enrolled in high school or college or serve in the military, would be issued identification permitting them to remain and work in the United States for up to two years (renewable thereafter for additional two-year periods). President Obama based his authority to issue the DACA executive order on the limited resources of his office to enforce deportations, thus prioritizing such deportations last (i.e., deferred).
The transparent object of DACA, however, is to create a legal status for a class of immigrants that Congress has unambiguously said are not lawfully in the United States.
Every day that DACA continues to exist hardens the usurpation by the executive of the powers delegated to Congress by the Constitution. It matters not that Congress is a willing partner in this usurpation. They haven’t the authority under law to shrug their lawmaking power or responsibility in this way. Article I of the Constitution states unequivocally: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.” DACA deprives each citizen of the United States of the civil right to have their laws made by the representatives they elect to Congress, on a matter of fundamental importance: who can be a resident of the United States.
One does not get to the question of whether the law can be better until one first gets to the question of who makes the law. DACA obscures this preeminent question that defines who we are. DACA is an extraordinarily cruel deception that baits the American people to depart from their most important ethos.
Once Trump announced the end to DACA in six months, the only fair-minded question was: Can we do it sooner? Trump intends that a Democratic coalition in Congress will send him legislation either affirming DACA or some variation thereof as law. If not, DACA simply will end. But when one or the other happens, Trump will have partly rehabilitated Congress to its Article I responsibilities—the question of what happens to so-called “Dreamers” being a secondary and political one.
As for The Wall, the Republican establishment, not Trump, should be the object of contempt. Republican establishment figures in and outside of Congress spurned their elected leader, and now find themselves in the de facto minority party because the President is insistent on, of all things, governing. That means working with the party that can, in fact, form a majority. This is part of what I warned about when I wrote in June that “The waters and the Egyptians will not wait forever.” Trump is rushing into the parted waters, taking whoever will follow him. The GOP still has the opportunity to play the central role in this drama, to form a functioning majority, and to give their constituents the Wall they have called upon them to provide. Or they can stand there, mouths agape, while opportunities like a Republican majority in Connecticut slip away.
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