DACA: Do Americans (Have) Compassion Anymore?

By: Ziad Buchh

On an appearance on Fox & Friends during the 2012 Republican primaries, Donald Trump asked a simple rhetorical question: “How do you tell a family that’s been here for 25 years to get out?”

Well it seems that the 2017 Donald Trump has found the answer to that question, as he ordered the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last Tuesday, which grants protections to the children of illegal immigrants who, among other things, are seeking an education and have no criminal background. The removal of DACA threatens the status of over 800,000 young adults across the country.

In his justification, President Trump, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, used age old anti-immigration rhetoric such as the claims that the program caused native-born Americans to lose jobs and for wages to go down. While those claims themselves range from debatable to outright unproven, it’s not what Donald Trump of 2017 has to say about the matter that is interesting, but the Donald Trump from 2012.

During the Republican primaries of 2012, Donald Trump was brought on Fox & Friends to talk about a disagreement between Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann on immigration. In his appearance, Trump challenged Bachmann to go tell a family that has lived in America for 25 years to get out, saying she wouldn’t be able to do it because “she’s a good person.” In another appearance on CNBC, he rejects the notion of kicking out immigrants across the country who have been in the country for 20 years and excelled academically, a description that would adequately describe immigrants that would qualify for DACA.

2012 Trump painted the issue as one of “compassion” not conservatism, which begs the question: “Do Americans (Have) Compassion Anymore?”

The issue legally is quite clear. DACA was originally introduced as an executive order by President Barack Obama to effect change that Congress refused to. As the new head of the executive branch, Donald Trump is well within his rights to end DACA. Furthermore, illegal immigration is, as the name suggests, illegal, so deporting the so-called “dreamers” would be enforcing the law.  

But Americans who support DACA’s removal need to ask themselves the question 2012 Donald Trump asked: How do you kick out people who have spent their adult lives in America, knowing nothing else, and have tried their best to chase the American Dream? People with no felony convictions who have excelled in their education, working hard and paying taxes? People who, as President Obama described them, are “Americans in every way except on paper.”

Hope still exists for those who rely on DACA’s protection. President Trump has given Congress six months to come up with a replacement before he slowly phases away DACA protections. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has assured dreamers, telling them to “rest easy” as they work on legislation. So, in six months’ time, we will know for sure whether compassion or conservatism will prevail.