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Friday, October 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

George Nethercutt: Next step on DACA is up to Congress

By George Nethercutt For The Spokesman-Review

President Donald Trump has stirred a hornet’s nest with his conditional executive order repealing a 2012 executive order approving DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals measure. DACA is a program that allows children of undocumented immigrants to remain in America, since they have led productive lives, worked and attended American colleges.

Democrats in Washington state’s congressional delegation signed a letter to Mr. Trump expressing their “disappointment” with him for repealing then-President Barack Obama’s executive order and urging him to “work with Congress” to craft a measure allowing those affected by DACA to stay in the United States. Two Republican House members – Reps. Dan Newhouse and Dave Reichert – have expressed their support for DACA, familiarly called “the Dream Act.” Many religious groups and universities support DACA.

President Trump’s order is conditional on Congress passing a law within six months that protects those affected by DACA.

The DACA program is laudable. It affects about 800,000 young people nationally and about 37,000 in Washington state. Proponents are compassionate and support those who are here being further integrated into American society. The Obama executive order allowed for student renewals of the two-year exemption from deportation, so on March 6 students could be deported as undocumented, though that’s unlikely.

It’s disingenuous for lawmakers now to blame President Trump for insisting on passage of a law. He found the prior executive order inadequate as a permanent solution to DACA immigrants. Nowhere has it been shown that any of those who signed the aforementioned letter to Mr. Trump introduced legislation to correct the prior order but with congressional approval.

Mr. Obama simply signed the order because he couldn’t persuade Congress to act. That’s no way for any president to legislate, even accepting that the legislative process is slow and tedious.

The issue is whether President Trump had authority to reverse the order and clearly he did. CNBC reported that “hyperbolic reactions from the expected special interest groups, and from many politicians, have been … predictable and counterproductive,” saying that Democrats will continue to make immigration a “political wedge issue.”

Those caught in the middle are students who relied on the federal government to protect them.

Immigration is a controversial issue. The Senate passed a bipartisan reform measure, but no comprehensive House bill has been passed. It’s time for Congress to dig in and pass a comprehensive measure that protects those touched by DACA. While young people are not at fault for being brought to the U.S., their parents are for having chosen to enter America without documentation.

The best remedy is for Congress to act comprehensively on immigration, especially accepting the Trump challenge to repair DACA. All the student and special interest group whining about the Trump action won’t solve the problem. Congressional action will, so Congress should get busy.

President Trump acted courageously by laying down the gauntlet on DACA. Mr. Obama and other critics can complain about Trump’s action, but he had the right, perhaps not the obligation though, to do what he did. Allowing allowing hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants into America should be objected to by most Americans, even if they are students who are here because their parents chose an illegal route.

It’s fine to be compassionate for those fleeing oppression, or for young people entering the U.S. because their parents wanted a better life for them, but the U.S. is a country of laws and they should be followed.

Likewise, it’s not being uncompassionate to expect legality from those entering America. DACA individuals are due a pathway to citizenship to become full-fledged Americans, not forced to engage in political fights over legal vs. illegal status. They should be able to stand tall as American citizens who have earned the right to be here, just as hundreds of thousands of others do to meet naturalization standards.

Making DACA students legal should be a first priority for Congress, not simply criticizing President Trump for calling out the impropriety of the expedient Obama order.

George Nethercutt is a former U.S. representative from the 5th Congressional District.

Corrected to say: “DACA is a program that allows children of undocumented immigrants to remain in America, since they have led productive lives, worked and attended American colleges.” They were not born in the United States.
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