OPINION | President Trump: Show your 'big heart'
© Getty

Shortly after being sworn in as president, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE had a message for Dreamers: “They shouldn’t be worried. I do have a big heart. We are going to take care of everybody.”  

But now the hundreds of thousands of young people who came to this country, many of whom have spent nearly their entire lives here, are understandably worried. The president has ordered an end to former President Obama’s DACA program, which he had implemented by presidential order.

This executive action was challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. Instead of defending Obama’s compassionate use of executive authority, the Trump administration has decided to moot the constitutional question by ending the program.  


The constitutional question centers on the power of the president to employ discretion in deciding which illegal immigrants to deport and in what order. This was seen by the Trump administration as usurping the power of Congress. As Trump put it: “Congress, get ready to do your job.” 

The implication of Trump’s statements is that if Congress does its job and legislates a compassionate program similar to that announced by Obama, he would not oppose such action, nor veto it if enacted. I think the president should make those positions crystal clear and go a step further: He should now announce that he would urge Congress to implement his “big heart” by legislating the essence of the DACA program.  

There would be no constitutional questions raised if Congress were to replicate DACA and the president were to sign it into law. So the only basis on which Trump withdrew DACA would no longer exist. Congress would have done its job, and the president would have done his.

So far, all we have heard from the president and his spokespeople is why they believe that Congress, and not the president, is the appropriate vehicle for enacting DACA-like compassionate programs. Now let’s hear, from these same people, why it would be a good thing to demonstrate America’s big heart by allowing these youngsters, many of them now in college and in good jobs, to remain in America until their final status can be resolved.  

The case for such compassion is overwhelming, not only on moral grounds but on pragmatic ones as well. The criteria for being included in DACA are daunting. It requires that beneficiaries must "be under the age of 16 upon entering the country; no older than 31 as of June 15, 2012; lived continuously in the U.S. since mid-2007; be enrolled in high school or college, already have a diploma or degree, have a GED certificate or be an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. military; and have no felony criminal convictions, significant misdemeanor convictions, no more than three other misdemeanor convictions or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public security,” according to NPR.

Young people who meet these criteria are likely to contribute significantly to our nation. Even more important, it was not their fault that they were brought here illegally, at a young age, by their parents. Many have siblings who were born here and will remain because they are U.S. citizens. As former President Obama put it: “These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

So, Mr. President, show your “big heart.” Support legislation that will allow these youngsters to remain here and contribute to the greatness of our country.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School and author of “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law" and "Electile Dysfunction: A Guide for the Unaroused Voter.” His latest book “Trumped Up! How Criminalizing Politics is Dangerous to Democracy,” was published in August. Follow him on Twitter @AlanDersh and on Facebook @AlanMDershowitz.

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