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Trump isn’t Wrong About Congress and DACA

Trump And GOP ElephantYesterday, the President typed out:

First, it is not entirely clear what Trump means by this mandate.  A plain reading suggests that Congress needs to pass legislation to fix a real problem.  A cynical reading suggests that Trump wants Congress to continue its long-term recalcitrance on the topic, thus allowing the protection for those covered by DACA to lapse.  A further cynical, yet also somewhat realist, reading is that Trump really doesn’t know what he wants Congress to do (or really cares). On that count:  if he really did have a clue what he wanted, his administration would have a concrete proposal beyond a Jeff Sessions press conference and 140 characters in the ether.

I will say that in terms of a plain, mostly non-cynical reading, Trump isn’t wrong:  a long-term fix of immigration policy in the United States is the job of Congress.  Further, Obama’s DACA program was always a stop-gap measure to deal with a very real, very human problem that the Congress had been unwilling to fix.  So, sure, Congress needs to do its job.

But, that’s the rub:  it is far from clear they want to do their job on this topic.  Keep in mind that some version of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) has existed since 2001.  The bill’s inability to make it out of Congress has been tied to Republican opposition.  Republicans control the Congress at the moment, and more to the point they control the House, where Speaker Ryan would have to corral the Freedom Caucus and other very conservative Republicans who think that this is a simple “rule of law” problem. It is hard to see, at the moment, a DACA solution coming out of the House.

Consider the following from Steve King (R-IA):

So, is he suggesting that sending these people back to countries they do no know is some kind of impressed Peace Corps service?  He does realize that Peace Corps volunteers get to come home, yes?  It is just a weird statement, and one that ignores the humanity of the people under discussion.

And in regards to the whole “rule of law” business:  this can be fixed by passing a new law.  The notion that whatever the law is today is sacrosanct is ridiculous.  Laws change to deal with real conditions on the ground all the time.  Law is not set in unchangeable stone.  Laws that are unjust should be changed.  Laws that an in-efficacious should be changed.  Laws that do not address the problems they are designed to address should be changed.  Immigration law needs significant reform.

If all law is perfect, then we no longer need a Congress.  Shall we never reform the tax code because, after all, we already have a bunch of tax laws now?

So, while Trump isn’t wrong (not a phrase I type all that often):  it is Congress’ job to fix this problem, his methods and motivations are problematic.  He has created jeopardy and stress for almost a million persons who are innocent of wrong-doing.  And, since no man is an island, he has actually disrupted the lives of millions.  He has made them all bargaining chips in a cruel political gambit.  Even if he thought that Congress needed to act, there were better, more humane ways to move forward.  Plus, leadership would entail having an actual proposal.

Trump understands to some degree what he has done because he hid in the White House while he sent AG Sessions out to make the announcement, rather than doing do himself. He then spent yesterday trying to assert how much he cares about these people.  The reality is, of course, he made a crass political decision that is a bone tossed to nationalists and white supremacists at the expense of innocent people.  It was a cowardly, shameful move.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    I disagree.
    I believe Congress will act, with the entire Democratic Caucus, to get something done. The pressure is too great.
    Unfortunately Donnie John the Con will walk away with some credit, because he will spin it like he forced them to act. As you said:

    …there were better, more humane ways to move forward. Plus, leadership would entail having an actual proposal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Franklin says:

    Great post. I have no faith in Trump’s motivations, but if his garbled message means that this is *supposed* to be the job of Congress, then he is correct.

    My kids are also supposed to clean up their toys. Sometimes *I* end up having to do it, though, because otherwise my aging in-laws might trip while traversing the living room. In this analogy, I am like Obama (I flatter myself) and my kids are like Congress. Trump is the very strict parent who doesn’t clean up the toys and is okay with sacrificing other people to prove a point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Franklin:

    Trump is the very strict parent who doesn’t clean up the toys and is okay with sacrificing other people to prove a point.

    You give the tiny-handed incompetent too much credit. He’s simply satisfying his racism, and his racist base.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. DrDaveT says:

    First, it is not entirely clear what Trump means by this mandate.

    You’re doing it again — you’re projecting onto Trump a concern with ‘meaning’ that is no part of how he thinks and acts. I know it’s hard for rational analysts like ourselves to get inside a head like that, but he quite literally does not ‘mean’ things when he makes utterances (either spoken or tweeted). He doesn’t do semantics; he manipulates emotions. And, as best I can tell, he assumes that the rest of the world is doing the same thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  5. MBunge says:

    Acknowledging that Trump is actually right about something is such a breakthrough around here that I’ll let the self-flattering denunciations slide.

    Let’s just remember that if Congress fails to act on this, it’s not Trump’s fault. It’s the fault of McConnell and Ryan and Pelosi, etc. And yes, Pelosi and the Democrats are not blameless here. They are equally responsible for our mess of an immigration system and are also responsible for their electoral failures that have empowered the GOP.

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 18

  6. Stormy Dragon says:

    The Myth of the Rule of Law

    Appealing to “The Rule of Law” is just something people pretend to believe in when they want to advocate for the status quo when they don’t want to have to explain why they support it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. KM says:

    @MBunge:

    Let’s just remember that if Congress fails to act on this, it’s not Trump’s fault.

    Yes it is. He didn’t have to press the issue right freaking now and certainly didn’t need to set such a short deadline. To borrow Franklin’s toy analogy, Trump’s telling the kids he’ll light their teddybear on fire if they don’t clean up the room in the next 5 minutes but any resulting need for a fire extinguisher is *their* fault and not his. That’s not tough love, that’s insanity pretending to be pious parenting.

    I agree Congress needs to make a decision here but Trump’s the one with the matches. Any fire that results is lit by his hand and his choice even if the kindling just happened to be by his feet.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  8. James Pearce says:

    The reality is, of course, he made a crass political decision that is a bone tossed to nationalists and white supremacists at the expense of innocent people.

    Quick, while they’re gnawing on the bone, everybody sneak past.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    with the entire Democratic Caucus,

    The problem is: the GOP controls scheduling in both chambers. This is especially problematic in the House.

    This is going to be very tricky for Ryan–plus, there will be pressure to maintain the “rule of law”–so don’t discount that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. @Stormy Dragon:

    Appealing to “The Rule of Law” is just something people pretend to believe in when they want to advocate for the status quo when they don’t want to have to explain why they support it.

    Yup.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. James Pearce says:

    @MBunge:

    And yes, Pelosi and the Democrats are not blameless here.

    I can think of a few Democrats in the Senate who bear more responsibility than Pelosi, but yes, immigration is a mess because most Republicans are awful on this issue, and some Democrats are too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:

    Trump is actually right about something

    Everyone has said from way, way back when that this was Congresses job. Republicans refused to do their job, so Obama acted TO DO THE RIGHT FVCKING THING.
    Trying to credit Dumb Don with some great breakthrough here is intellectually dishonest. Especially when, as SLT points out, there are far better, and more effective, ways to accomplish something.
    You are a pathetic sycophant Bunge. Getting you to admit that would be a significant breakthrough.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  13. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Vicente Fox:

    .@realDonaldTrump ending DACA is on the top of the vilest acts you’ve pulled off. You’re destroying the legacy of greater men before you.

    .@realDonaldTrump is it because TrumpCare failed, as your other “succesful” bills? Childish and futile actions to prove yourself worthy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. Franklin says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    He’s simply satisfying his racism, and his racist base.

    You might note the first part of my post where I said I had no faith in his motivations. The rest of the post was simply taking his statement at face value.

    But if it helps my analogy in your eyes, my in-laws are actually immigrants. :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    And yes, Pelosi and the Democrats are not blameless here. They are equally responsible for our mess of an immigration system

    Actually, no, both sides are not equally responsible on this issue.

    Do you remember when senators Schumer and Rubio came up with a joint and bi-partisan plan to deal with comprehensive immigration reform, and Republicans subsequently refused to take it up and bring it to a vote? And that joint plan was very punitive with respect to any path to citizenship for those already here, the DACA’ers .

    Republican leadership was going to have none of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  16. Argon says:

    Remember when Rubio was into leading immigration reform and we thought maybe the GOP would be on board with the process? Yeah. Those were heady, if otherwise completely delusional days. There are way too many Jeff Sessions and Steve King-styled troglodytes in that party. Even if the timid but perhaps majority of the GOP leaders wanted some reasonable, bipartisan reform, it’s all being held in check by 20-30% of the nativist, John Bircher types. The GOP made the grand bargain with those types and we’re all paying the price.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  17. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    No matter what happens…it’s important to remember that Trump didn’t have the balls to announce this abomination himself.
    He’s a racist, and a coward. Nothing more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  18. Lit3Bolt says:

    Doug, Rick Wilson seems to think that this issue will dog Republicans nationally the same way Prop 187 did for California Republicans. I have strong doubts,any thoughts?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @MBunge:

    Acknowledging that Trump is actually right about something is such a breakthrough around here that I’ll let the self-flattering denunciations slide.

    A stopped clock is right twice a day.

    Potus Trump can only aspire to such a lofty goal.

    Let’s just remember that if Congress fails to act on this, it’s not Trump’s fault. It’s the fault of McConnell and Ryan and Pelosi, etc.

    Thank you for providing justification for Potus Obama’s actions in the first case.

    Mike, you ARE becoming blue !!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. KM says:

    Oh look, this stupidity is going to cost us real money. For those who like to believe immigrants are stealing resources from them, it’s gonna be a nasty shock when that money flows right into someone else’s pocket. I have no idea why they think they’ll benefit instead of some rich person. That scholarship your kid didn’t get because of poor grades immigrants? Funding was cut and class size reduced, gotta save taxpayer money! Those jobs you didn’t get because you aren’t qualified or cost too much immigrants? Whoops, either gonna be automated or moved off-shore. Medicaid / Medicare / SS/ random gov bennie you think they’re stealing? Well, now there’s millions less going into the coffers to fund those programs because you deported a sh^tton of taxpayers and Republicans want to cut them anyways.

    Nobody middle class benefits from this. Nobody poor benefits either. Hmmm wonder who does??

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  21. DrDaveT says:

    @KM:

    Nobody middle class benefits from this. Nobody poor benefits either. Hmmm wonder who does??

    In this case, I think the answer is “Mexico”. It certainly isn’t wealthy Americans (who would prefer not to harm the economy) or US corporations (as evidenced by their unanimous decision to fight this any way they can).

    Maybe Trump’s 7-D Chess plan is to get Mexico to build the wall using the extra GDP Mexico will get from all of the deported dreamers added to their economy…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. TM01 says:

    So, Obama creates a crisis, offering false hope to millions of people here illegally, yet we continue to blame Trump. Obama created the bargaining chips by trying an end-run around Congress, who actually, as you said, has the responsibility and duty to address this, NOT the Executive.

    Since Congress won’t act, perhaps Trump can come out tomorrow and announce a Brand New Health Care Program, because Obamacare continues to adversely affect millions of people, and something needs to be done NOW!! Think of the CHILDREN!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    Totally makes up for him supporting Nazis who murdered a young woman in Virginia and terrorizing 800,000 people and their families for the vicious amusement of his racist base.

    As @KM points out above Trump generated this crisis at the worst possible time for the worst possible reasons, though, yes this should be on Congress.

    But I suppose for you cult members that’s a victory, right? No wall, no Trumpcare, a North Korea policy that’s really just Obama But Louder, alienated allies, the degradation of the presidency, staggering corruption, a firehose of lies and slander, but hey, he’s right that Congress should do its job. MAGA, amiright?

    Your own intellectual degradation perfectly tracks Trump’s degradation of the presidency. Down and down and down you go.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  24. KM says:

    @TM01:
    You realize Trump is the nominal leader of the GOP, right? As in, the ones in charge that aren’t doing their job? Why is he not over there helping making some deals and compromises? Thought that was his shtick – the Businessman, the Deal-maker. Where’s his plan is Congress is floundering about? What’s his end goal for when Congress inevitable fails to meet the deadline and he’ll be responsible for the fallout? He’ll have to make a bad decision in 6 months and that could absolutely have been avoided.

    Trump’s getting blame because he set a fire and then walked away. Even if it is to force Congress to finally act, it’s still causing unnecessary problems we really don’t need right now. He couldn’t wait till after the Harvey cleanup? He didn’t need to do anything right now. He’s getting flake for bad timing, stupid confrontations, and potentially using millions of innocence lives to force his stupid Wall funding. Like his Tweets, the man’s inappropriate and ill-timed even when he’s (theoretically) trying to be correct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  25. @TM01:

    So, Obama creates a crisis, offering false hope to millions of people here illegally, yet we continue to blame Trump.

    Trump created the proximate problem by the declaration. The declaration took place because the AG was unwilling to defend DACA in court. The court issue was the result of a number of GOP state AGs who were going to bring suit.

    As such, the proximate crisis is created by a combo of GOP actors at the moment.

    So, regardless of what you want to say about Obama’s DACA order, it did not create the crisis (and, further, was in response to an existing problem).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  26. teve tory says:

    Trump understands to some degree what he has done because he hid in the White House while he sent AG Sessions out to make the announcement, rather than doing do himself. He then spent yesterday trying to assert how much he cares about these people. The reality is, of course, he made a crass political decision that is a bone tossed to nationalists and white supremacists at the expense of innocent people. It was a cowardly, shameful move.

    well said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. teve tory says:

    So what happens if the GOP fixes DACA as successfully as they repealed Obamacare?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    The Dreamers get screwed and the economy takes a hit, that’s what happens. Which is why his action was immoral and foolish, even though Trump isn’t totally wrong that Congress should deal with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m reminded a bit of the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff: trying to generate a pretend crisis to force action. If Trump had any leadership or deal-making skills, that *might* make a lick of sense. But he doesn’t.

    And frankly, holding a gun to 800,000 people’s heads is not my idea of a good strategy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. David M says:

    DACA was implemented because the GOP wouldn’t act, the alternative was nothing. So if Obama’s action results in a legislative solution, it validates his approach. If not, it was still worth trying.

    There’s no equivalent upside to Trump’s actions. In the unlikely event Congress acts, he still caused needless worry for no reason. It’s more likely we return to the pre DACA status quo, which almost everyone agrees was worse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0