The shocking incident of October 5, 2017 could be traced back one month earlier to September 5.
On that Tuesday morning, there was an extra bounce in the step of the Attorney General as he took to the podium. He barely suppressed a smile as he began his announcement. The glee was apparent.
I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama Administration is being rescinded.
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has a history. He is not particularly against illegal immigration. He advocates severe cut-backs on all immigration, legal or not.
But the October incident, and the announcement that came before it, were not about all immigration. The DACA program was about those whose parents brought them to this country as small children. They are, in all meaningful respects, American. On average, they were 6 years old when they arrived. They know no other language. They know no other country. And General Sessions was announcing the government’s intention to ship them to lands in which they will be strangers.
The Attorney General conflated opposition to this move with opposition to any borders at all, a position held by pretty close to … well … nobody.
To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It’s just that simple. That would be an open border policy and the American people have rightly rejected it.
The October incident that came a month later, and the Sessions announcement itself, were not about open borders or admitting everyone who would like to come here.
The Attorney General told us that sending away those who grew up in this country was all about fidelity to the law. Postponing deportation was disrespectful to the Constitution.
Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.
Presidents beginning with President Reagan took a more reasonable position. Congress has never funded immigration enforcement as would be necessary to find and expel all immigrants who came without documentation. For good reason. It would be expensive beyond practicality. So any President must choose who to target. Successive Presidents did just that, with little or no objection from Republicans or Democrats.
Until President Obama.
President Obama targeted adults, increasing border enforcement. Special emphasis was placed on tracking occasional lawbreakers. For the first time in decades, the number of undocumented immigrants in the country went down. More left than came in.
There was nothing illegal or unconstitutional about prioritizing enforcement as Congress restricted funding. The logic would be similar to that of a police officer bypassing a jaywalker in order to save a child from a burning building. The question was whom to target:
To target these young people is wrong — because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating — because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel.
– Barack Obama, September 5, 2017
When President Trump talked about targeting “bad hombres,” some may have had the impression he would be going after the worst of the worst.
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.
They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.
– Donald Trump, June 16, 2015
But the October incident, and the announcement that came before it, were not about crime. The end of DACA was about those who are most innocent, most harmless, most vulnerable. It is a fact of life that those who are most cooperative, those who register as instructed, will be easiest to catch and deport. They are also law abiding, contributing Americans no rational person would want to force out.
800,000 Americans had less in common with the rapists that haunt the fevered imaginations of Trump variety conservatives, and more in common with Tania Breton:
I have pledged allegiance to the flag for, like, 21 years. But I can’t change what my parents did.
– Tania Breton, Morristown, NJ, on NJTV
Why go after those who came here as little children? Why target them?
The cynical among us might go back to a wealthy real estate speculator speaking to an almost empty room in 2013. He was angry that immigration policies had been equalized in the 1960s, no longer favoring white Europeans. Europeans were the sort of people who would make the best Americans, the sort who would make America great again.
I say to myself, why aren’t we letting people in from Europe? I have many friends, many, many friends–and nobody wants to talk this, nobody wants to say it–but I have many friends from Europe. They want to come in. People I know. Tremendous people. Hard-working people. They can’t come in.
– Donald Trump at CPAC, March 15, 2013
A few hours after the announcement ending DACA, President Trump responded to the negative reaction. He seemed surprised that most Americans saw those targeted, those brought to America as little kids, as fellow Americans. He was taken aback at the anger. He announced a delay in ending DACA. Congress would be given six months to fix the law. If Congress did not fix the law in six months, he would think about more delay. He had never intended to hurt those young people. Never crossed his mind.
I have great heart for the folks we’re talking about. A great love for them. And people think in terms of children, but they’re really young adults. I have a love for these people and hopefully, now, Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.
– President Trump, September 5, 2017
But, a month later, the incident of October 5 had little to do with love, or Europe, or drugs, or rapists, or the Constitution. It had nothing to do with grand principle. It is hard to see it as anything other than low and petty.
Under DACA, young people who were brought to the United States as children, people like Tania Breton, are required to re-register every couple of years. There is a fee of several hundred dollars.
Weeks ahead of time, thousands of young people got the fees together and mailed in the necessary paperwork and the money. The United States Postal Service allows special class mail to be tracked by internet. Many did just that, and were surprised and concerned when their renewals seemed to be staying somewhere in the huge labyrinth of the Chicago Post Office.
Days turned to weeks. Phone calls and urgent messages revealed nothing. Except that the applications were somewhere in Chicago.
Friends tried to get duplicate applications hand delivered, but nobody in immigration offices could reveal where to take the necessary papers. Just wait, they said.
Finally, weeks later, the paperwork on those thousands of renewals got delivered. Wow. It must have been stressful, but at least the applications got there.
They did get there. But the deadline of October 5 had also arrived. The applications were rejected. After all, they were late.
Sometime next March, as their status expires, the young people would be taken by federal agents and removed from the only country in which most of them could remember living.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S.C.I.S., is part of the Department of Homeland Security. A spokesperson for the Trump administration spoke about how the government would deal with those thousands of applications:
U.S.C.I.S. is not responsible for the mail service an individual chooses, or for delays on the part of mail service providers.
– Steve Blando, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
And that’s where it stood.
Until the issue was presented to Federal District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis. This was an issue Judge Garaufis was in no mood to hear. Federal courts generally try to avoid such minutia as postal delivery. His court was already dealing with the targeting of young people in DACA by the Trump administration.
He was scheduled to hear arguments about whether it was legal to first go after the most law abiding, just because they were most vulnerable. He did not want to clutter up the case with issues of mail delivery. He reluctantly agreed to allow those representing DACA young people to add the issue to their case. But only if both sides could not come to some agreement.
And he made very clear he wanted, really really wanted, both sides to reach an agreement.
The night before the scheduled hearing before Judge Garaufis, the Trump administration caved.
From the New York Times:
But on Wednesday, the agency reversed its position. In light of the delays, it agreed to allow those rejected because of mail delays to resubmit their renewals for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
…Homeland Security issued the guideline in a statement Wednesday night.
The night before. Yep. That was Wednesday night. On Thursday morning the issue would be presented against the Trump administration in the larger case on ending DACA.
The Trump administration should be congratulated. At least for the moment.
It is a clear demonstration that those currently in charge of our government can be counted on to do the right thing.
When there is absolutely no way out.
to get episodes automatically downloaded.