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EDITORIAL: Defend Dreamers, President Trump, not a lawbreaking sheriff

Then-Maricopa County Sheriff joined Donald Trump on the campaign trail in 2016. | Mary Altaffer/AP file

President Donald Trump has his priorities all wrong. Friday, he pardoned a former lawbreaking sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, is a convicted criminal who illegally detained Latinos in his quest to rid his county of undocumented immigrants. In doing so, he shirked his everyday duties as a police officer. Solving crimes took a back seat to playing immigration agent. He was not a good cop.

Arpaio also happens to be a supporter of President Trump.

And, pathetically, the president is considering ending a successful five-year-old program that has allowed nearly 800,000 carefully screened undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as mere children to stay and work here legally on a temporary basis. Some 42,000 of these so-called “Dreamers” are from Illinois.

Both Arpaio and the Dreamers have, strictly speaking, broken the law. But only the sheriff did so consciously and cruelly.

EDITORIAL

Immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, tend to be younger and have no criminal backgrounds. When they can work jobs, they also pay taxes. Abolishing the DACA program would cost the United States $280 billion in economic growth over the next decade. There is no upside. Ending DACA hurts immigrants, their employers and the country.

Conservative attorneys general from Texas and nine other states are pressuring Trump to drop the program. They have given his administration until Sept. 5 to get rid of DACA or they will follow through with a lawsuit to bring DACA’s demise.

The president should not cave. He should order the Justice Department to defend the program.

Many experts believe the administration would lose in court because the case would land in the hands of a conservative judge in southern Texas who ruled against a similar but more expansive immigration order issued by former President Barack Obama. Others believe that Texas and the other states threatening to sue have no standing since this program doesn’t burden them.

Trump, who said earlier this year that he would deal with the DACA program with “heart,” could prove it by supporting legislation to legalize the young immigrants. If he is truly a dealmaker, he should negotiate more funding for border security — not a senseless wall but cameras, drones, personnel and vehicles — in exchange for legalizing Dreamers.

That Trump could kill the DACA program and pardon Arpaio, who blatantly thumbed his nose at the law over his obsession with immigrants, epitomizes a sad state of affairs for immigrants under this administration.

Arpaio, on one hand, defied a federal judge’s order to stop profiling immigrants. The judge didn’t believe Arpaio when he denied knowing his deputies had violated the order. Arpaio has not expressed remorse, probably because he doesn’t think he did anything wrong.

Arpaio was to be sentenced in October. He faced six months in jail, though no one ever really thought the 85-year-old would end up there.

Through no fault of their own, Dreamers could face a tough sentence, too. They could end up in the shadows, in fear of the likes of Arpaio.

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