Here’s a guess. Even Donald Trump knows that shutting down the DACA program, as he’s strongly hinted he would, would be a disaster, both personal (for the Dreamers and their families) and political (for him).
I mean, the reaction to the Fox News report that Trump was ready to end the program was, in language Trump can understand, full of fire and fury. This was perfectly predictable. All he had to do was pick up any poll — Americans overwhelmingly believe Dreamers should have, at minimum, legal status — or read anything not written by Tom Tancredo.
Or he could turn on the shows. Colorado’s own Mike Coffman, whose history on immigration is, let’s say, inconsistent, made national headlines saying he would go back to Congress next week and try to force a vote on his Bridge Act bill — which would protect Dreamers for three years —whether leadership liked it or not. It was either a bold move or a desperate move or both. Coffman, who once called Tancredo his hero, has been working hard to live down that past in his politically diverse district.
But Coffman’s move is looking shrewder by the minute. Speaker Paul Ryan is also now saying that Trump should not end DACA and that Congress should fix the problem, meaning that if Trump does end DACA, he could be facing another major rebuke. All that’s required for Ryan to move forward is to find a bill that a majority of House Republicans wouldn’t oppose or to count on Democrats to help him pass one.
OK, nothing is sure here. We know immigration is not an easy issue and illegal immigration is even trickier. But the Dreamer problem, which shouldn’t be a problem at all, is the ultimate no-brainer in politics — nearly as easy as, say, knowing you should always condemn neo-Nazis or any other kind of Nazis.
Democrats have, of course, been quick to respond. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, while signing a bill that would further pit Denver against ICE and the Trump Administration, would say on Thursday, “Mr. President, leave our DACA children alone.”
The next morning, John Hickenlooper and Jared Polis and others spoke to a DACA rally at the state capitol. But it was Monica Acosta, who came to the United States when she was 3, who stole the show. Her mother, she says, was deported 12 years ago and the stress now is triggering memories of her family being torn apart.
So as she wakes up every day, she takes her anxiety medicine and then googles Trump and DACA, knowing that soon she could again join the ranks of those described as undocumented.
“The full descriptor, however, is undocumented and unafraid and unapologetic,” ” Acosta said to a cheering crowd.
That’s what Acosta is facing. And that’s what Trump is facing.
Dreamers are, of course, those brought to the United States as children, who have grown up as Americans, who, for the most part, know no other country. There are as many as 800,000 of them in America, as many as 17,000 in Colorado. To think they should be deported, you have to believe that the sins of the fathers or the mothers or aunts or uncles or grandparents or coyotes should be visited upon, well, the entirely innocent children.
The Dreamers should be a separate issue from illegal immigration. Whatever you think of those who decided to risk everything to cross a border without documents in search of a better life, the Dreamers’ only decision was to follow along.
Seriously, who could object to the Dreamers being allowed to stay exactly where they are?
OK. That wasn’t a serious question. We know who objects — the people who make up the Trump base. The base for whom Trump made his controversial pardon of no-longer-Sheriff Joe Arapaio. The base for whom Trump is insisting on building that border wall. The base that was all in on the neo-Nazi/counterprotester moral equivalency.
It’s a small base. It may be a shrinking base. But it also got Trump elected, and, for reasons both cruel and misguided, the Trumpists do object, as do an unforgivable number of Republican politicians.
And so, Trump ran on ending the program because, well, it was an Obama program and, as he insisted during the campaign, Mexico doesn’t send its best, which apparently extends even to their children. For Trump, it was one of those first-days-in-office promises, like the one to end Obamacare. Except that this one, he could do on his own. So, why hasn’t he?
Because, as he said Friday, “We love the Dreamers. We love everybody.”
OK, he doesn’t love everybody. I know that as one of the fake-news enemies of the people. But he has had nice things to say about Dreamers, because why wouldn’t he? And yet, he’s on the fence (which is not, by the way, the same thing as the wall, which neither Mexico or Congress seems willing to pay for).
If I could bring up a short timeline of Trump thoughts on DACA, it would go this way: end it, end it, end it, really, really end it, maybe don’t end it, I love these kids, there’s nothing for Dreamers to worry about, end it, phase it out, deal with Dreamers with heart, OK, maybe end it after all.
Now Trump says he’ll make a decision over the weekend, or maybe Monday, certainly by Tuesday when a group of Republican attorneys general have threatened to file a lawsuit against DACA. That includes the Texas attorney general, who would file the suit even as his state, home to many tens of thousands of Dreamers, deals with catastrophe that is Harvey.
Harvey is a natural disaster, arguably made worse by human contribution to climate change. Shutting down DACA, though, would be solely a man-made disaster. And, as even the president must know, a completely avoidable one.