How The DACA Problem Could End Up Hurting Republicans In November

The legal fight over DACA could end up posing problems for Republicans in November.

As I noted earlier, the President’s efforts to bring an end to the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program hit another legal roadblock last week in the form of another Court ruling from a Federal District Court Judge in Washington D.C. that essentially requires the Administration to keep the DACA program in place and to continue to accept applications for DACA status from persons not currently covered or who are reapplying due to the fact that the two-year limitation on deportation was coming to an end. As I note in that post, this is just the latest legal setback that the Administration has suffered in connection with its efforts to end DACA, a fact that does not bode well for the Administration’s prospects on appeal. Leaving aside the legal arguments, though, Washington Monthly’s David Atkins argues that this ruling and the other legal action taking place regarding the DACA program could put Republicans in a bind politically:

Trump’s signature issue of immigration is not going so well for him. The public recoils in revulsion about his cruel and barbaric child separation policy, not just on its own merits but as new horrific stories of abuse trickle out almost daily. Trump’s famous wall is not being built, what little is being done is not being paid for by Mexico, and Trump astonishingly indicated in public he would shut down the government over it. None of that will play well with persuadable voters, nor is it likely to do much to sway his base.

All of this has pushed DACA largely out of the news. But voters haven’t forgotten. DACA remains incredibly popular, with upwards of 80% or even 90% support depending on the poll. That means support for DACA cuts into even Trump’s most hardcore supporters. This is not a fight Republicans want front and center as November approaches.


The administration has two choices here: do the decent and honorable thing, abiding by the agreement while facing the temporary wrath of Ann Coulter, Mickey Kaus and the merry racists at Breitbart-or use the conflicting to appeal this fight as far as necessary, prolonging the political damage.

A normal administration would simply take the loss and move on. But that’s not Trump’s style or his instinct. Trump’s first gut reaction is to eliminate whatever Obama did before him, and cater to the most stridently deplorable racists from among his supporters.

What does this mean for the kids dealing with the horrible stresses of this seesaw? It means more pointless and cruel toying with their lives by the Trump regime. But it also just might mean that a group of Democratic allies might be helping come to the rescue by way of the ballot box in just a few months from now.

What makes all of this interesting is the fact that it is happening in the context of two other developments, one legal and the other political.

On the legal side, there is a lawsuit filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in Texas by Texas and six other states seeking to have the original DACA Order handed down by the Obama Administration in 2012 struck down. The Trump Administration joined that effort in June, a somewhat unusual move given the fact that it would ordinarily be the job of the Administration to defend a Federal law or program when it is being challenged in court. In any case, there is a hearing scheduled in that case in Texas scheduled for this week and a ruling could come at any point after that hearing, although it will likely be several weeks at least before we hear anything from the presiding Judge. Given the conservative nature of the Federal Courts in the Fifth Circuit, of which Texas is a part, it’s entirely likely that the Judge will issue an order finding the original DACA program in violation of the law, a ruling that would create some rather obvious conflicts with the rulings from the courts noted above that would likely mean Supreme Court review could end up being expedited. At the very least, though, a ruling against the original DACA program would place the injunctions against the Trump Administration’s DACA order in doubt, meaning that the 800,000 people currently benefiting from the program would find themselves back in legal jeopardy.

Politically, this could prove to be problematic for Republicans heading into November. While there have been some efforts in the House and Senate to try to get DACA relief on the agenda after both chambers failed to address the issue earlier this year, neither of those efforts have proven successful and it is unlikely that we’ll see anything passed before the election. The problem this poses for Republicans is that polling has consistently shown broad public support for extending protections for DACA beneficiaries, see here, here, here, and here, including offering them a path to citizenship, and that this is a position that even a majority of Republicans support. While it’s not likely that the status of DACA will be a major campaign issue, it could be one of those things that motivate marginal voters to come to the polls in battlegroud districts. In other words, another potential election headache for the GOP.

FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, Borders and Immigration, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In other words, another potential election headache for the GOP.

    Forcing candidates to defend unpopular and immoral policies is never a good look in a debate and the outtakes make for devastating ads.