Over the years, we have written many times about “dreamers,” those young men and women brought to our country illegally when they were children or babies. The United States is the only home they know.
They are, by and large, good Americans in every way except for the formal paperwork. They work. They go to school. As a group, more so than legal citizens, they stay out of trouble.
Yet President Donald Trump would deport them, all 800,000. He once promised he would resolve with “heart” the uncertainty of their legal status, but that was empty talk. In the view of this White House, the dreamers are not full human beings. They are pawns, easily sacrificed, in a bigoted anti-immigration crusade.
The only acceptable response is to resist. The only decent course for Democrats and moderate Republicans is to ignore Trump’s demand on Sunday that the protection of dreamers from deportation be conditioned on far more controversial immigration reforms.
Congress should grant by legislation the same protections — no strings attached — the Obama administration granted by executive order. The clock is ticking. Trump has canceled Obama’s executive order and, if nothing more is done, the dreamers will begin losing their protected status in March. Tens of thousands could be deported at any time.
On Sunday, the White House announced a wish list of hard-line measures, beginning with a border wall, that Trump is demanding in return for any deal. The president’s demands threaten to derail any effort by Congress to shield the dreamers, which might be the whole point.
Is Trump on board with his own plan? Who knows? The president seldom appears to understand the details or implications of his own policies. His first concern always is to sound tough at a rally. Beyond that, he farms out his thinking to others.
The two aides chiefly responsible for shaping Trump’s immigration policy — top adviser Stephen Miller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — are militantly hostile to immigration of almost any kind.
When it comes to the dreamers, Trump might stick with Miller and Sessions. Or he could change his mind the next time he has dinner with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader of the Senate. You just never know.
What’s certain is that Trump’s new agenda won’t fly. Democrats, as well as many Republicans, will never agree to fund his wall along the border with Mexico. It is too expensive. Mexico won’t pay for it. Border states don’t want it. And a better way to improve border security would be through better technology.
Also unpopular would be hiring 10,000 more immigration agents, given the budget-busting cost, and hardening the border against children fleeing violence in Central America, given the inhumanity. And if Trump thinks cutting off federal grants to “sanctuary cities” such as Chicago will gain him more support in Congress — or force mayors like Rahm Emanuel to back off — he is mistaken.
“If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good-faith effort to do so,” Schumer said in a statement on Sunday.
This is the problem. Nobody knows when Trump is serious about anything.
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