The United States is a country of immigrants. We are the only country founded on the ideas of freedom and inclusion. We must keep reminding ourselves because we are a long-time reaching those ideals. Being that unique country, it only makes sense that we have an exemplary set of rules governing how people can emigrate to the U.S. and become citizens.
We don’t have those rules yet.
The current greatest schism in the Republican party is about immigration reform. It is so pervasive that news and political discussion seldom feature Democrats because it is more interesting to offer two diverse Republicans. The split in the party is the widest since former New York City Mayor John Lindsay delivered the speech seconding the nomination of Spiro Agnew for Vice President at the 1968 National Convention. It wasn’t planned, or noted at the time, but when Lindsay finished his speech, that was the last word ever spoken by a political liberal in the Republican party. Since that time Conservatives have had their way.
Today, the Freedom Caucus of the party (the dregs of the Tea Party) are so nervous and fearful about outsiders living among us that they shudder when they find themselves on the same dictionary page as the word amnesty. Moderates (the closest we see to Lindsay/Rockefeller liberal Republicans these days) are much more in line with Democrats on human rights and forwarding policies that include comprehensive immigration laws that line up with our founding tenants. Much of that may be self-serving as they may come from states and districts with minority vote pushing 50%. If they rail against black and brown skinned immigration, they simply won’t get elected.
The debate falls into two categories–those already here and those who wish to come here. The group most in the news from those already here is the 3.6 million DREAMers–those living here illegally, brought here as children having made no conscious decision to do so. In 2012 President Obama issued the DACA executive order he knew was ephemeral but could stand until codified by Congress, challenged by the courts, or eliminated by the next president. Those who qualified were under 31-years-old in 2012, had to apply with clean legal records, and intended to be productive residents. The executive order was issued because Congress refused to consider any bills. There are about 800,000 official DACA members.
Donald Trump canceled the E.O. on Sept. 5, 2017 taking effect March 5, 2018–DACA is no more. He didn’t have to cancel Obama’s E.O. but he did with no plan forward. Unsurprisingly, Congress has not been able to pass any legislation to replace DACA and Mr. Trump has not issued any further E.O.s directed at fixing the status of those children (some could be 37 at this point–hardly children). Most agree this group is law-abiding. Many have served in our military, have good jobs–many are teachers–making them important to our economy and integral to our country’s ethos.
What’s the problem? At one point the president said he wanted a clean bill (one dealing only with the topic of DREAMers with no amendments or riders) but never followed through. The Speaker of the House is responsible for bringing bills for discussion and vote. His stance is that he won’t bother with a bill that he doesn’t think the President will sign. For some reason, Speaker Paul Ryan doesn’t think the President will sign a DACA-type bill into law. In Ryan’s defense, would you like to be the one second guessing Donald Trump’s next move? Ergo, no action is being taken and the DREAMers remain a political football. Democrats offered to fund a majority of Mr. Trump’s border wall in exchange for getting DREAMers on a legal path to citizenship. Even that hasn’t moved the spirit of the Freedom Caucus or the President. A bunch of brown-skinned young people who have proven their worth and allegiance to this country still seem scary to enough to Congress to bring the wheels of justice to a stand-still.
There is a remedy that can be taken in the House called a discharge petition. That is when Congress can provide 218 signatures (the number making a majority) demanding a vote. Moderate Republicans (remember them?) claim that they have enough signatures to complement the Democrats, nearly unanimously in favor, to offer the discharge petition.
The wonderment here is that a vast majority of the country and what looks like a majority of Congress wants to settle the DREAMer issue once and for all, but because the Freedom Caucus shuns anything that smacks of amnesty (none is proposed, simply a clear path to earning citizenship), Congress remains in its normal state of paralysis.
The other immigration issue is with those wanting to come here and are trying to do so either illegally or as walk-ons seeking asylum. This became a problem when the administration decided to arrest everyone, including those seeking asylum, treating them as criminals (Mr. Trump calls what they are doing “taking advantage of legal loopholes.” Isn’t that what he says he does to minimize his taxes?), instead of simply detaining until their status can be clarified,
This assault on human dignity, not any falsely touted Democratic sponsored law, is creating the problem of separating children from parents–fodder for yet another column.