For years they have equivocated, prevaricated, and over-promised.
On Tuesday, Donald Trump announced a delayed end to Barack Obama’s executive amnesty, presumably to bring urgency to congressional efforts at immigration reform. Attorney General Jeff Sessions described the program this way: “The executive branch through DACA deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions.”
That’s true as far as it goes. The problem is that the legislative branch, dominated by Republicans for quite a while, has refused to do much of anything regarding the millions of people who live and are building their lives in America without any legal right to be here. After venting publicly about Obama, and privately about Trump, Republican lawmakers should blame themselves for the toxic politics of ending DACA. This mess is partly their own making.
Famously, J. Paul Getty said that if you owe the bank one hundred dollars, that’s your problem; if you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem. A similar dynamic is at work with immigration. If you’ve been in the country for a few months or years without legal status, that’s your problem. If you’ve been in the country for two or three decades without legal status, that’s the government’s problem.
Of course it’s an absurdity to deport thirty-something Anglophones who have no memory of their country of origin back to Mexico or Guatemala. And it looks gratuitous to use them as bargaining chips in the immigration debate.
Decades of Republican lies about immigration reform and enforcement have led us to this point. In 1986 restrictionists were told that a limited amnesty would be followed by rigorous enforcement. The amnesty wasn’t as limited as promised, and the enforcement never came. Since that time, every few years, a new “comprehensive” approach to immigration tries to bring Republicans back to the 1980s. Republicans get out on the trail and make campaign commercials saying “Finish the dang fence!” Then they get in office and write up a massive amnesty to go along…