Congress must act to save the dream

By William Keve

(Gretchen Keller/ Daily Collegian)

The uproar over President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) has been heartwarming, yet very much expected. Seventy six percent of Americans feel that children brought to the United States should be allowed legal status, and a majority of that 76 percent feel they should be allowed to follow a path to citizenship.

If Donald Trump’s xenophobia was the only motivating factor for the controversial rescission, surely DACA would have been shown the door shortly after Inauguration Day. Eight months into this administration, Obama’s policy was still the law, and it will be the law for at least another six months. Trump’s procrastinated rescission of DACA can be clearly explained by two factors: the scandal-plagued first quarter in which Trump had a weak electoral mandate, and new pressure from Republican governors to rescind the order by Sept. 5.

The following day, protests and marches sliced through Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and small towns across the country, while Northampton held a touching vigil for those threatened by the rescission.

Even if you believe that Trump’s timing was coincidental and that fears of defending Obama’s executive discretion against GOP attorneys general didn’t motivate him to act, take a cue from Republican congressmen. They are quickly distancing themselves and signaling congressional efforts to pass a compromise bill to align their party with American public opinion. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a frequent critic of Trump and sponsor of the 2011 DREAM Act, hinted at his support for a comprehensive amnesty bill. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley called the crisis an “opportunity for compromise between people that want DACA plus a lot of other things dealing with legal immigration,” as if to suggest bipartisan negotiation between Senate Democrats and Republicans.

Polling from Politico shows that 57 percent of the Republican electorate favors DACA’s provisions, and their representatives control Congress and the White House. If the Republican party has an image problem, passing a generous DREAM act could be a cure-all. Leading up to the 2012 presidential election, 42 percent of Latino voters agreed that Barack Obama had failed on the issue of immigration reform, and that they would not commit to voting for his reelection. News of Obama’s executive action on DACA sharply reversed the apathy from Latino voters, as Obama took 71 percent of Hispanic votes in that election. Even if passing a new DREAM Act doesn’t replicate the effect for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, it might at least stop the bleeding. If moderate Republicans join the outcry over Trump’s decision to separate families and deport Americans to countries they don’t call home, then there is no reason that a comprehensive solution would be denied.

Historically, minority parties have performed well in midterm elections, and despite favorable House and Senate maps for Republicans, the Democrats are almost bound to pick up some seats. Even if a compromise on immigration reform wouldn’t outright help Republicans prevent losses in 2018, it would certainly show incoming Democrats that they’re ready to work on the coming year’s greatest challenges including infrastructure and health care.

It’s so rare that voters of both parties agree on a truly common-sense platform with majority support that’s in the national spotlight. Allowing a path to citizenship to fall by the wayside when it is so distinctly achievable would be a monumental failure for the federal government and for citizens who claim to have an impact on how they are governed. If Republican representatives can’t represent their own constituents and pass universally popular legislation, why should Americans have any hope that more controversial issues like single-payer health care or tax reform are achievable?

William Keve is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]