On DACA, the president cannot be trusted

On DACA, the president cannot be trusted
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Last Friday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE sat down with Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Speaking about the plan that gives deportation relief to nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought here as children, Trump said, “DACA is going to be just fine.” He stated that he was going to “do a big executive order.” He promised that his “big immigration bill” would include a “road to citizenship” for the young people known as Dreamers.

Trump’s words may sound like encouraging news for the Dreamers. But don’t be fooled. The president’s comments were at best contradictory, and at worst deliberately misleading. His remarks suggest that he did not understand the Supreme Court’s DACA decision, and they are at odds with his track record.

Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden's immigration plan has serious problems Hearing for Twitter hack suspect Zoom-bombed by porn, rap music Read: Sally Yates testimony MORE, using executive action, created DACA in 2012. It gives some young immigrants the temporary right to live and work here. In 2017, the Trump administration announced that the program was going to be ending, though its rescission was blocked by the Supreme Court in June of this year.

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In his Telemundo interview, the president did not seem to grasp the basic facts of the high court’s DACA ruling. “If you look at the Supreme Court ruling they gave the president tremendous powers when they said that you could take in,” he said, "in this case, 700,000 or so people, so they gave powers.” He added that he would be doing an immigration bill “based on the powers that they gave.” In fact, the high court did not let the president "take in” anybody; the Dreamers are already here. Nor did the court give Trump any powers in its DACA ruling. It held that the administration's termination of the program was improper because the government had not followed the correct procedures to end it. While the Court ruled that Trump could try again to end DACA, no justice suggested that the president was being given expanded powers.

Trump’s interview was confusing because he repeatedly used the terms “bill” and “executive order” interchangeably. While he referenced both “a big immigration bill” and “a big executive order,” these are two different things. A bill comes from Congress, while an executive order comes from the president. Trump also said that his executive order would include a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers — but the president does not have the power to confer citizenship on the Dreamers. Only Congress could do that.

Nothing from Trump’s Telemundo interview — about the Dreamers, DACA, and possible pathways to citizenship — deserves to be taken seriously.

It was his administration that tried to kill the program, which is overwhelmingly supported by Americans, including most Republicans. As soon as the Supreme Court ruled that proper procedure had not been followed in rescinding DACA, Trump vowed to renew his efforts to end it. There is no reason to believe that the president had a sudden change of heart and now favors helping the Dreamers.

Trump’s empty words on DACA make sense when viewed in the context of his sagging re-election campaign. Last week, the president — who has called some Mexicans “rapists” and criminals — met with the president of Mexico. On Thursday, Trump announced the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, at an event notable for the CEO of Goya Foods attending and inspiring a boycott of his company.

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Trump’s renewed interest in DACA was a political move, to perhaps distract people from his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately hit Latinos. Nice try. A new report from Latino Decisions shows that clear majorities of Latino voters in battleground states view Trump as divisive and harmful. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Latino voters said that the president’s statements and policies cause major setbacks to their communities.

It is a positive development that the president was willing to engage with Spanish-language media; in the past he has clashed with Diaz-Balart as well as Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.

Yet Trump has shown himself to be a bad-faith negotiator when it comes to DACA.

He has a well-documented history of expressing interest in, and then rejecting, bipartisan deals to protect the Dreamers. And a White House press spokesman has already walked back the president’s comments from his Telemundo interview, stressing the need for a legislative fix and noting that “This does not include amnesty.”

In other words, don’t hold your breath for any kind of DACA executive order or deal.

Trump’s Telemundo interview was a transparent attempt to win some Latino voters. But on DACA, this president cannot be trusted.

Raul A. Reyes is an immigration attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, he is also a contributor to NBCNews.com and CNN Opinion. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaulAReyes, Instagram: raulareyes1.