President-elect Donald Trump has an opportunity to show he is capable of compassion and decency without violating his generally hard-line stance on immigration reform. If he is serious about wanting to unite America, he should seize it.
On immigration, there is a path to a middle ground that he refused to walk during the campaign, when he demonized undocumented immigrants.
Trump would be wise to allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, to continue. It was put in place four years ago by an executive action of President Barack Obama. It gives protections from deportation to undocumented teenagers and younger adults who were brought to this country as children and had no say in the matter.
We’re appalled by Trump’s entirely hostile tone. Comprehensive immigration reform is still the best answer going forward, but we’re also realistic about the chances of that coming to a vote in coming years.
But Trump must keep in mind that 60 percent of his supporters say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. legally if they meet certain requirements, according to the Pew Research Center. Among all voters, the number goes up to 80 percent. Meeting “certain requirements” for legalization usually means passing background checks, being current on taxes and paying fees.
Only 32 percent of Trump supporters believe there should be an effort to deport, according to the Pew survey.
Keeping DACA would be a minimal common-sense move.
These immigrants, often called Dreamers, know only the U.S. as home. They are American in every way except on paper. With DACA, nearly 750,000 live freely and work legally in the U.S.
DACA is not permanent legal residency. Applicants must apply for renewals every two years. It can be revoked if someone commits a crime.
These young immigrants have passed background checks; the government has determined they pose no threat to safety.
“To the extent he’s talking about extreme vetting, they’ve been vetted. And the standards were high,” Royce Bernstein Murray, policy director of the Washington, D.C.-based American Immigration Council, said. “It wasn’t a lottery. It wasn’t a giveaway. You’re letting them be hard-working.”
Most are members of the American work force or college students. Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine started training some to be doctors in 2014. Almost immediately, other universities followed suit. DACA recipients are nurses, teachers and members of the tech community. Why disrupt their economic and professional contributions to America?
Trump seems intent on doing just that. During his campaign, he vowed to rescind all of Obama’s executive orders. Striking Obama’s executive actions on immigration are among his top priorities, according to Trump’s “10-point plan to put America first.”
But only one of Obama’s programs, DACA in 2012, got off the ground. An expansion of DACA and a deferred action for about 4 million undocumented immigrants who are parents of either American citizens or lawful permanent residents has been tied up in the courts. Those programs are dead.
But for the hundreds of thousands who have been granted DACA, there is great fear Trump is going to rescind Obama’s action and put them on a deportation list.
They have good reason to be scared.
Trump appointed Kris Kobach to his immigration policy transition team. Kobach, secretary of state in Kansas, crafted a hardline immigration law in Arizona.
Kobach told the Los Angeles Times last week that workplace immigration raids, not seen since the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, will return. They also want to get started on building that wall. Trump told “60 Minutes” he will immediately deport or incarcerate two to three million undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds.
If Trump’s administration so desires, it can target DACA recipients easily for deportation. The government has all their personal information on file from their DACA applications.
“You could absolutely use the information provided for targeting purposes,” John Sandweg, former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Washington Post.
Not long ago, Trump had moderate views on immigration.
Speaking on deportations in 2012 to CNBC, he said, “Now we’re supposed to send them out of the country? I don’t believe in that.”
Of course, that was before he sold his soul and beliefs for votes to win the presidency.
Killing DACA not only would destroy the goals and opportunities of ambitious young people, it also would set back companies that hired and invested in their futures.
What kind of message does Trump want to send Americans? That he is draconian?
Letting Dreamers continue to prosper would be a gesture of good will. It would resonate with most of America.
Follow the Editorial Board on Twitter: @csteditorials