WASHINGTON — It’s rare for former President Barack Obama to speak out against President Donald Trump, and it’s not for lack of material. But Trump’s order to end Obama’s protections for Dreamers — while urging Congress to act — drew a blast from Obama, who called Trump’s decision “cruel.”
On Tuesday morning, Trump gave Congress a six-month deadline to pass a law giving Dreamers the ability to lawfully stay in the U.S. In the evening, Trump, in a Twitter post, suggested this deadline was fake and if Congress did not act by March, “I will revisit this issue!”
While Trump sows chaos, Obama, in his longer Facebook statement and in a pithy version on Twitter, focused on what is the threshold issue when it comes to this particular category of illegal immigrants in the U.S.
“To target hopeful young strivers who grew up here is wrong, because they’ve done nothing wrong,” Obama said on Twitter.
On Facebook Obama said, “Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us.”
As the immigration debate about this class of illegal immigrants once again roars to life — there’s nothing like a deadline — let’s get right how this story started. Dreamers are involuntary illegal immigrants. That’s a reason they deserve a break. It’s not that complicated.
The reality is that Dreamers may have little connection — much less memory — of their native land.
Dreamers were brought to the U.S. as children who did not have a choice.
Their parents committed the illegal act. They did not — and some 16 years ago, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., launched a crusade to give legal status to these youths in limbo — who came to be known as Dreamers.
Obama, who could not get Congress to pass a law to protect Dreamers — this has never been easy — in June of 2012 created a program called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, for those entering the U.S. under the age of 16 and who have clean records. Now close to 800,000 have DACA protections, about 42,400 in Illinois.
Everyone knew that was not a permanent solution because a president could — as Trump did — erase an order from a previous president.
In a perverse way, Trump giving Congress until March 5 to act, may finally force some kind of immigration deal.
Trump punted to Congress because he is trying to have it both ways: appease his hard line anti-immigration base and then have an escape route to shrug off blame if Congress fails to act.
Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have a stand-alone Dreamer bill pending, though it has little chance of passing without it becoming part of a larger immigration deal.
Democrats will resist a strict trade of Dreamers for Trump’s border wall. Democrats have voted for tougher enforcement in the past and they would again, if Dreamers are saved.
Durbin and Graham in a Tuesday press conference are making a big push for Congress to act soon, which is very optimistic.
“The clock is ticking. We are now in a countdown toward deportation for 780,000 protected by DACA today,” said Durbin.
“. . . What Senator Graham and I want to deliver is the message today is that we need to do our job right here in the United States Senate. We need to pass in this month of September a DREAM Act, a permanent law in this country.”
It is pointless now to argue whether Obama’s DACA law was constitutional or improper.
Graham said at the presser that Dreamers “have done nothing wrong.”
Said Graham to Dreamers, “The only thing that stands between you and certainty in your life is the Congress. That cannot be that reassuring. So here’s the deal. The Congress is going to have to up its game.”