On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to announce that the president has decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides work permits to people who came to the United States illegally as children. The Trump administration is expected to delay ending the program for six months, giving Congress the opportunity to pass legislation that would protect the so-called “Dreamers.” DACA has been criticized by conservatives for being implemented by Barack Obama without Congress’s consent; this delay will, theoretically at least, give Congress the opportunity to pass legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of young people.
DACA is widely popular, in large part because it is focused on people who did not enter this country of their own volition. But DACA has also been a litmus test for Trump’s base—ending the program is proof that he isn’t fatally compromised by globalists and RINOs. It is the dilemma that has faced Trump for the last seven months on a host of issues: appease his base or the rest of the country. As usual, Trump has chosen his base.
But the way he’s done so is particularly craven and shameless, even for him. As the past eight months have shown, Trump will spike the football about anything that looks remotely like an accomplishment, but he’s been noticeably quiet about DACA. His plan is about as far from a profile in courage you can get, even in contemporary American politics.
Trump has not just kicked the can to Congress, but also crafted a scenario in which he will have to take as little responsibility as possible. If Congress fails to pass some kind of equivalent legislation, Trump can blame do-nothing legislators that the vast majority of Americans already hate. If Congress does miraculously pass something, he can claim a bipartisan majority has spoken (the Senate would need Democratic support for such legislation), even though that would have been achieved in spite of him. Of course, he could also veto any legislation that passes—something his base will likely call for—but the whole point is for Trump to not take any decisive action and to leave as few fingerprints on this policy as possible.
What makes this so heinous is that Trump has taken hostage the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of young people so that he won’t have to to do any of the hard work of actually solving the problem, such as passing replacement legislation before ending their work permits. He gains almost nothing from this political cowardice—but hundreds of thousands stand to lose.