Thank Trump if he finally ends the unconstitutional DACA program

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Rumors are circulating that President Trump will cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As well he should: DACA is bad public policy and violates core constitutional principles. 

Unilaterally created by President Obama, DACA provides pseudo-legal status to illegal aliens brought to the U.S. as minors. It gives them a promise that they won’t be deported, as well as providing them with work authorizations and access to Social Security and other government benefits.

As a sovereign nation, we have the right to decide who comes to the U.S. Even if we doubled our current legal immigration quotas, there would still be people who would enter or remain in the U.S. illegally. Enforcing our immigration laws encourages people to come to the U.S. legally and discourages illegal immigration.

{mosads}Unfortunately, the U.S. government has for many years failed to faithfully enforce our immigration laws. This has inevitably encouraged more and more illegal immigration. DACA is the pinnacle of non-enforcement; not only does it protect illegal immigrants from deportation, it provides benefits that by law are reserved for American citizens and legal immigrants. Why come to the U.S. legally if you can acquire many of the same benefits by coming illegally?


Whether DACA is good public policy or bad public policy is, however, ultimately irrelevant to whether President Trump should end the program. He should end it for the same reasons that the federal courts prevented President Obama from implementing the similar “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents” program or DAPA. Like DACA, DAPA provided an administrative amnesty for illegal aliens and gave them work authorizations and access to government benefits.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction entered by a lower federal court against the DAPA program. Under our Constitution, Congress has plenary authority over immigration; the president only has authority that has been delegated to him by Congress. As the Fifth Circuit said, the fact that the president declined to enforce the law and remove illegal aliens “does not transform presence deemed unlawful by Congress into lawful presence and confer eligibility for otherwise unavailable benefits based on that change.” Obama acted beyond his constitutional authority when he provided through DAPA pseudo-amnesty and government benefits that had not been authorized by Congress.

The DACA program suffers from exactly the same constitutional infirmity. The place to have the debate about what to do about illegal aliens who were minors when they came to this country is in the halls of Congress, not the White House. Failure to correct this overreach will only set a dangerous precedent that weakens our constitutional balance of powers.

The U.S. should take a step-by-step approach to our immigration challenges. Start with non-negotiable responsibilities of the federal government such as border security and enforcement of immigration laws. Then turn to improving the legal immigration system. Once that is done, the country can figure out what to do with those still living here illegally.

But the first step in this process is for the Trump administration to end the unconstitutional DACA program. President Trump can do this unilaterally, since President Obama unilaterally created this unauthorized program. This is a crucial step in fixing our immigration system. 

Hans von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow and David Inserra is a policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation.

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

Tags DACA David Inserra Donald Trump Hans Von Spakovsky Immigration

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