Guest Column: Trump Going Forward and Backward on Immigration

Even though getting tough on immigration was candidate Donald Trump’s signature issue, and more than any other policy position put him in the White House, he’s still struggling to keep his promises.

Trump administration officials made two announcements within hours of each other that underlined President Trump’s conflicted mindset. Last week, Department of Homeland Security John Kelly signed a memo that officially ended President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of American Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). In his highly controversial 2014 executive action, President Obama’s DAPA would have granted about four million illegal immigrants work authorization and other affirmative benefits. But lower courts blocked it, and a Supreme Court ruling ended in a 4-4 tie. DAPA never took effect.

In his widely touted 2016 campaign speech that listed his immigration priorities, President Trump promised to “immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the Constitution ...”

DAPA is one of the two; the second is deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) which, to the dismay and disappointment of President Trump’s supporters, is still in effect. Recent U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services statistics showed that since President Trump’s inauguration, about 98,000 illegal aliens received new DACA permits and renewals. President Trump had, on the campaign trail, repeatedly and unambiguously vowed to end DACA.

Since the courts had already blocked DAPA, President Trump’s base considers its official termination as a minor victory. But Trump voters label his DACA failure a major betrayal.

First, DACAs get work permits, and have entered the labor market, either as employees or job seekers. Since they are supposedly young adults, they’re in head-to-head job competition with recent college graduates, a beleaguered employment sector. Job competition for Americans with only a high school diploma is even stiffer. By keeping DACA alive, President Trump is rewarding Illegal immigrants, and punishing Americans. The labor pool presence of about 800,000 DACA since 2012 when President Obama initiated the program makes it more challenging for employers that want to, quoting President Trump, “Hire American.”

Second, President Trump’s continued reference to DACAs as “incredible kids” that he loves and to whom he wants to show “great heart” frustrates individuals who have been familiar with the program since its inception. DACA qualifiers can have up to three misdemeanors, some of which have been pled down from felonies. While most may have clean records, some don’t. During the early DACA days, an alien who qualified for DACA was arrested on domestic battery charges. When he tried to escape ICE custody, he feloniously assaulted the arresting officer. Nevertheless, President Obama’s immigration officials ordered the offender released based on his DACA credentials.

Most bewildering of all about President Trump’s DACA duplicity is that it yields nothing to him. DACAs can’t legally vote, and if they could they wouldn’t vote for President Trump even though he gave them work permits, and spared them from deportation.

Little wonder that President Trump’s supporters are in a quandary. They want to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt. But on his DACA flip-flop, forgiveness isn’t an option.