the elusive center
Trump’s Immigration Compromise

The Trump administration is taking fire from the Right and the Left for its immigration actions last night. Hardcore immigration hawks like Ann Coulter are apoplectic that the administration extended president Obama’s executive action granting provisional legal status to people who came to the U.S. illegally as children; left-wing activist sites like Fusion and ThinkProgress, meanwhile, are decrying the administration’s formal erasure of another Obama-era order that would have halted deportation for millions more illegal immigrants.

CNN reports on the details of the two actions, which were announced by the Department of Homeland Security:

The Trump administration late Thursday night officially rescinded an Obama administration immigration policy that would have protected millions of undocumented immigrants — but left intact a separate initiative for young immigrants.

The program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA, had never actually taken effect after being signed in 2014. Courts had blocked it pending further litigation, which has been ongoing.

Given President Donald Trump’s opposition to the program, the Department of Homeland Security formally rescinded the policy rather than continue to defend it in court Thursday.

But the policy guidance made clear that DHS would continue to honor DAPA’s sister program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Of the two Obama orders in question, DAPA was always a more radical program. As CNN notes, DACA applies to just three-quarters of a million people while DAPA reaches six times as many–effectively granting amnesty to over a third of the U.S. illegal immigrant population, and possibly more. And while deferred action for “Dreamers” is broadly popular, President Obama’s order suspending immigration laws for millions of people who knowingly violated immigration laws as adults doesn’t have nearly as strong of a moral or political basis.

The announcements last night, then, seem like a reasonable compromise from an administration trying to govern from the center, even if they feel like more of a “win” for the pro-immigration side, because DACA’s future was very much in question but DAPA had already been halted by courts and it seemed unlikely to be revived.

That said, sweeping executive actions, whether by Obama or Trump, are no way to solve America’s immigration problems. If America is going to grant amnesty to Dreamers, that policy should be ratified by Congress, preferably as a part of an immigration package that cuts unskilled immigration levels and clarifies enforcement priorities. Sadly, despite some promising innovations by Republican senators, the Trump administration has not shown the interest or competence in negotiating lasting fixes for the U.S. immigration system. Until that happens, policy is likely to continue to swing wildly each time the ruling party loses the White House.

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