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Obama’s ‘pen and phone’ have been trumped when it comes to DACA

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Imagine a rogue president, frustrated with Congress for repeatedly failing to pass his administration’s wish list on immigration, disregarding the separation of powers and unilaterally implementing his legislative prerogatives by executive fiat. No, this isn’t a constitutional law hypothetical. This is the story of how the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program came into being.

For nearly two decades, Congress has considered varying versions of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a legislative amnesty for certain illegal aliens who claimed to have entered the country unlawfully as minors, while meeting other criteria. Every time the DREAM Act was brought up for a vote, it failed to pass both chambers of Congress to become law.

Frustrated with the repeated rejection of the DREAM Act, President Obama decided to take matters into his own hands five years ago. Obama commanded the Department of Homeland Security to announce that it was unilaterally implementing their version of the DREAM Act, bestowing a temporary reprieve from deportation plus work authorization to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who met criteria nearly identical to the DREAM Act. Witness the birth of DACA.

{mosads}After winning re-election and watching his Gang of Eight mass amnesty bill implode thanks to fierce opposition by the American people, Obama grew impatient, saying his administration was “not just going to be waiting for legislation.” He added, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone, and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.”


He proceeded to try to expand DACA as well as create another executive amnesty program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). 

Even if you find these illegal aliens sympathetic, there is no congressional “inaction clause.” No president can waive a magic wand and change the immigration status of broad categories of people. Obama knew that too, as he noted in 2011:

With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed…. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws. There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.

Again in 2013 after an illegal alien protestor interrupted an Obama speech claiming he could stop all deportations, the president responded “it was just not the case” that he could “suspend deportations through executive order” because “there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.” He repeated this assertion 22 times before he reversed himself and did it.

If news reports are correct, President Trump will soon terminate DACA. In a compassionate move he didn’t have to take, Trump will reportedly allow current DACA recipients to remain in the U.S. until their work permits expire, giving them plenty of time to get their affairs in order before they return to their home country. That’s a good, fair, and sensible deal.

One major reason why Trump was elected was because of his pledge to enforce our immigration laws and end Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty programs. This is a win for the rule of law and a win for the millions of immigrants who have obeyed our laws and legally immigrated to the U.S., in many cases patiently waiting years, or decades, for a green card. More importantly, ending DACA is a win for young Americans who have struggled to find decent work over the last five years.

The biggest misrepresentation about DACA is that it is a program for “kids.” In fact, DACA is a jobs program for illegal aliens who are mostly in their 20s and 30s. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s open-borders website inadvertently verified this by releasing a report that admitted 700,000 illegal aliens will lose jobs when DACA ends. That must be welcome news to the hundreds of thousands of recent college graduates stuck living at home because they couldn’t find decent employment after graduation.

Don’t blame President Trump, America’s immigration laws, or the American public for the situation DACA recipients find themselves in. The blame first goes to the parents who put their kids in this situation by knowingly disregarding our immigration laws. Equal blame goes to President Obama, who unconstitutionally acted outside the scope of his authority and made false promises to illegal aliens that he knew he couldn’t keep.

Robert Law is the director of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama DACA deferred action for childhood arrivals Deferred Action for Parents of Americans Donald Trump DREAM Act Illegal immigration to the United States Immigration reform Robert Law

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