Pavlich: Congress’s move on DACA

Pavlich: Congress’s move on DACA
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Much is being made of President Trump’s decision to end former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Those in the New York and D.C. media bubbles are outraged and have classified the move as heartless, unnecessary, immoral and, of course, racist. To those who voted for him, it’s simply another fulfilled campaign promise that shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, the decision should have been made a long time ago.


But with all the outrage surrounding the decision, there’s a single fact to bear in mind when seeking clarity about why a rescinding of the program by Trump is justified: It is not the president’s job to set immigration policy and never has been, DACA included. This role has always been the responsibility of Congress, and will be moving forward. Love or hate the outcome of what Trump has decided to do, keeping or scrapping DACA is outside of his authority as president. The executive branch enforces the law; it does not make it.

President Obama admitted as much before caving to pressure from the left to unilaterally grant protected immigration status to hundreds of thousands in 2012, setting Trump up for a political battle just a few years later. He knew implementing DACA by executive fiat was unlawful. He did it anyway.

“I am president; I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself. We have a system of government that requires the Congress to work with the executive branch to make it [legalization] happen. I’m committed to making it happen, but I’ve got to have some partners to do it,” Obama said in 2010. “I just want to repeat: I’m president. I’m not king. If Congress has laws on the books that says that people who are here who are not documented have to be deported, then I can exercise some flexibility in terms of where we deploy our resources, to focus on people who are really causing problems as a opposed to families who are just trying to work and support themselves. But there’s a limit to the discretion that I can show because I am obliged to execute the law. That’s what the executive branch means. I can’t just make the laws up by myself.”

“America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the president, am obligated to enforce the law. I don’t have a choice about that,” Obama reiterated in 2011. “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.”

Congress has an obligation to make controversial decisions on how to handle undocumented immigration. Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have refused to take the tough votes on the issue for decades. Whether it’s been to take advantage of cheap labor or for political purposes, both sides are guilty.

Republicans who wanted Trump to keep DACA asked him to take an issue under executive authority that doesn’t belong there. Worse, they’re asking him to engage in an unconstitutional grab after they roundly criticized Obama for doing the same.

In many corners the concept of DACA is a fair and compassionate one, giving reprieve to children brought into the country illegally by their parents. But the way the program is lawfully mandated and implemented matters. There is bipartisan agreement about the principle, which both sides should recognize in a time of seemingly endless division.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (R-Ariz.) said over the weekend children “should not be punished for the sins of their parents.” Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Cutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis Juan Williams: Trump's GOP descends into farce MORE (R-Wis.) has essentially made the same argument in recent weeks. The point is fair, but one Congress must back up with law, not the executive branch.

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordAbbott slams Ben & Jerry's for Palestine support: 'Disgraceful' Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Republican calls on Oklahoma to ban Ben & Jerry's MORE (R-Okla.) agrees, but also stresses the importance of consequences for those who violate U.S. immigration law.

“The White House is responsible for immigration enforcement and border security, not immigration policy. We must confront the nation’s out-of-date immigration policy and finally resolve the issues of strong border enforcement and merit immigration. Policy reform must come from the American people through Congress,” Lankford said in a statement. “It is right for there to be consequences for those who intentionally entered this country, however, we as American do not hold children legally accountable for the actions of their parents.”  

The House and Senate can easily bring forward a vote to keep DACA, and they should also move on to legislation dealing with the parents of DACA recipients. If Republicans and Democrats alike truly believe DACA should stay and be a permanent part of immigration reform, then they should use their elected power to make it so.

Based on Trump’s comments on the issue, he’d likely sign a bill sent to his desk.

“The DACA situation is a very difficult thing for me as I love these kids, I love kids, I have kids and grandkids and I find it very hard doing what the law says exactly to do,” Trump said during a press conference earlier this year. “We are going to deal with DACA with heart.”

Further, the majority of the country believes keeping DACA is the right, moral thing to do. It’s time for Congress to deliver.

Pavlich is the editor for and a Fox News contributor.

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