Despite a federal district court ruling blocking the wind-down of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, there is good reason to hope that progress will be made in immigration policy.
Agreement between President Donald Trump and House and Senate leaders on the issues to be addressed in a DACA fix is positive movement on an issue as controversial as immigration policy. Immigrants and the American people will be well served by a practical resolution to DACA.
But the hard work is just beginning. Securing a policy solution will require both sides to take a hard look in the mirror and determine what they care about most: their principles or their political concerns.
On the Democratic side, the struggle is to reject the temptation to use immigrants as tools for political victory, which has become many Democrats’ go-to tactic.
Under President Barack Obama, immigrants were shunted to the side in favor of economic stimulus, then health care, then banking regulation, and then the president’s re-election. The siren song of “politics first” continues to pull Democrats away from practical solutions, with some recently hastening to distance themselves from the idea of agreement on DACA.
On the other hand, Republicans’ struggle is to recognize that, after decades of the status quo of broken immigration policies, failing to reach agreement on immigration reform means failing to secure the rule of law.
For the rule of law to have meaning for Americans, the laws have to make justifiable sense. There is broad agreement that this has not been the case in immigration policy for more than a generation. When defense of the rule of law contributes to such an unbearable status quo, the rule of law itself loses some of the principled meaning that makes it valuable to the American constitution.
There’s a final obstacle to agreement on DACA: political predators. Those are the outside groups that use the ideas of helping immigrants and protecting the rule of law to raise money, and whose financial and political interests are threatened by compromise on DACA that doesn’t fit their ideological extremes.
Political predators have groomed politicians on immigration for years with promises of political success and support. But when politicians engage in dialogue that inches toward practical policy solutions on immigration, political predators respond with threats and intimidation to keep politicians away from compromise.
Unfortunately, political predators have their enablers among congressional leaders — on both sides of the aisle. The cultivation and projection of division helps maintain the status quo of both majority and minority leaders’ power. Reaching an agreement on DACA will require leadership to cut off political predators and put people before political victory, and the rule of law above the fear of amnesty.
Despite these political challenges, a DACA fix done right is both good politics and good policy. Finding a permanent solution for Dreamers and reforming a few of the rough edges of the immigration system will boost American jobs and wages, provide security for immigrants and their families, and strengthen national security and the safety of American communities.
There are policy solutions that can accomplish this by addressing the bipartisan issues required for the DACA fix, forwarding both sides’ principles, and rejecting the poison of political predators. Among those solutions are the SUCCEED Act; raising the employment-based immigrant visa cap; shifting chain migration and lottery visas toward the family members of employment-based immigrants; and increasing funding for border security.
Still, passing a DACA fix will require courage from lawmakers and President Trump — courage to prioritize people above politics, principles above fears, and American ideals above political ideology. The good news is that, despite legal complications, policymakers have a good opportunity to do just that.
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