In some ways, the biggest fight President Donald Trump has is within himself. The President can’t seem to finish his campaign pledge to kill the Obama-era protections for young undocumented immigrants. The policy in question is known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Doing away with the policy is in line with his stated values, but at war with what seems like sympathy for almost 800,000 people whose lives would be turned upside-down if it is repealed.
As an unofficial deadline of September 5th looms on the political horizon, there seem to be growing signs that Trump will in fact phase out the program. But his administration officials report that the president is conflicted and still looking for some middle ground that enables him to be tough on immigration but sympathetic to these families.
Those at risk are being called our country’s “Dreamers.” They are primarily young people who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and possibly work in the country temporarily. If the program ends, they could not only lose their jobs but be deported as well.
Those who oppose DACA urge Trump not to let his sympathy sway his decision. “Having sympathy for people who were brought here as children is not at all inconsistent with the acknowledgment that the DACA program is just absurdly unconstitutional. Those two things are not contradictory,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Those close to the president are saying that he still doesn’t know exactly where he will land on his decision. They note the unpredictable nature of serving this president. “I would be very uncomfortable saying where the president is leaning,” a senior White House aide said. “I don’t have a clear sense of where he’ll go.” Another White House aide said. Trump views DACA recipients as a “sympathetic or unusual case.”
President Trump has cited empathy as guiding his decisions in the past. It was the images of gassed Syrian children that he used to justify his aggressive position with Bashar Assad and his launch of airstrikes. If Trump does not do away with DACA, he would certainly face a backlash from his conservative base.
President Trump’s staff has been meeting privately for months to figure out all the options available to the president. One option is to stop renewing work permits that have previously been granted through DACA but allow people who already have them to stay until their two-year permit expires. Another option would simply be to stop new people from enrolling in the program.
The waters are muddy because two of the president’s top aides are contradicting each other on DACA. White House chief of staff John Kelly supports the program, policy adviser Stephen Miller and his deputies on the Domestic Policy Council are urging the president to abolish it.
“It’s kind of like Afghanistan, where you have a lot of different voices, and the president needs to make a decision,” one person close to Trump said.
The president has stated that he approaches the subject of DACA “with great heart.” In a press conference, Trump said, “The DACA situation is a very difficult thing for me as I love these kids, I love kids. I have kids and grandkids, and I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and, you know, the law is rough.”
There is another option for the president that has been discussed: Attempting to make a deal with Congress that would keep DACA in exchange for funding for Trump’s border wall with Mexico. Democrats are very unlikely to support such a measure, but some Republicans are holding on to hope. As of now Democrats have rejected any offers.
What do you think about the president’s inner battle to follow through on ending DACA?