My recent discussion of the prospects for true immigration reform that will result from the impending end of DACA protection for illegal child arrivals suggested that Trump may be able to leverage progress on the White House reform agenda. That view depended on an assumption that the Democrat congressional leadership will accept responsibility for protecting the DACA beneficiaries from deportation when their Obama-given protected status expires. The thought was that because Obama provided the temporary protection, his party will feel obliged to protect the DACA amnesty beneficiaries from becoming exposed to deportation.
A very different scenario results if the assumption is instead that the Democrat congressional leaders are prepared to ignore any responsibility for protecting the DACA recipients. It is possible that the Democrats believe that because of Trump’s statements of sympathy for the DACA beneficiaries that – absent legislation – he will indefinitely extend the date for terminating the program. Or, even if he does not extend the protection, he will instruct DHS not to deport any of the DACA youth except in extreme criminal cases – as is done now. Or, even if the DACA youth become fair game for deportations – like other illegal aliens – the Democrat leaders may believe that can be portrayed as an uncaring president and Republican Party separating families and punishing Americanized youth who are here through no fault of their own.
It is clear that in a scenario where the Democrats refuse to agree to immigration reforms in exchange for permanent protection for the DACA youth, public opinion will play a major role. Will the so called “dreamers” attack the Democrat leaders if a legislative solution breaks down for lack of their willingness to accept reform options? Will centrist voters blame Democrats or Republicans in that case? Polls suggest that a majority of the public supports permanent legal status for the DACA recipients. But other polls show public opposition to an amnesty. So an impasse will lead both sides to label the other as intransigent and responsible for the fate of the DACA beneficiaries. Yet, it is clear that so far it is the president who has shown greater flexibility by providing Congress time to act, and this flexibility has so far not been reciprocated.