- - Thursday, May 4, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“True immigration reform,” said the Federation for American Immigration Reform just three weeks after Donald Trump was dispatched to the Oval Office, “must begin with the recognition that our policies exist to serve and protect the vital interests of the American people.”

That should be self-evident, but as everyone can see it’s not evident at all. The presence of millions of illegal prospective immigrants among us demonstrates that the vital interests of Americans have often come last.

The good news is that illegal immigration has been sharply curtailed by the very presence of Donald Trump in the White House. “The movement of illegal immigrants up from Central America through Mexico has dropped off 70 percent,” says John Kelly, the secretary of Department of Homeland Security. “And frankly, we haven’t done all that much yet.”

One thing that Mr. Trump and Mr. Kelly haven’t done yet, despite the president’s repeated promises during the late presidential campaign, is to revoke President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The Trump administration has inexplicably retreated from its pledge to cancel DACA, which is of such dubious constitutionality that Mr. Obama himself said, several times, that he had no authority to implement it by executive action. Then he did it, anyway.

Under DACA, illegal immigrants younger than 30 — called “Dreamers” by open-borders advocates — who came to the United States before the age of 16 can get a series of two-year deferrals from deportation if they register with Homeland Security and pass a background check.

In February, CNN News reported that more than 750,000 persons have been approved in the nearly five years since the implementation of DACA. Mr. Trump and Mr. Kelly have sent contradictory signals about the Dreamers. The president told The Associated Press on April 21 that the Dreamers should “rest easy” and not worry about deportation. Mr. Kelly told CNN two days later that his agency “has not targeted” DACA illegal. “We have many, many more important criminals to go after and get rid of.”

This “either-or” formulation confuses everyone. The arrest and deportation of criminal illegals should obviously be given top priority, but the government should be able to walk, chew gum and enforce the law at the same time.

Mr. Obama denies his DACA statement was tantamount to an “amnesty” (which only Congress has the constitutional authority to grant), and critics noted the absence of anything to keep applicants, including youthful MS-13 gangbangers, from claiming they came to the United States as children, brought here by illegal-immigrant parents.

“Once these illegal immigrants are granted deferred action, they can then apply for a work permit,” Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, observed when Mr. Obama first announced his DACA scheme. Others complained that DACA further floods a poor job market for young Americans, depressing wages of everyone.

Trump promised to end DACA on his first day with a simple memo canceling Mr. Obama’s illegal directives,” William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, complained this week. His PAC, which in February 2016 was among the first to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy, angrily revoked its support for the president this week over the president’s failure to make the promise good.

The Trump administration should take no further applications under DACA, and consider changing the program over time by announcing that at a certain date in the future it will not defer further deportations. This would prove that DACA is neither an amnesty nor a grant of permanent residency, legal or otherwise.

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