DACA’s end should refuel immigration debate

A woman holds up a handwritten message as people protest in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals outside U.S. embassy in Mexico City on Tuesday.
A woman holds up a handwritten message as people protest in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals outside U.S. embassy in Mexico City on Tuesday. Associated Press

The end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, announced Tuesday by the Trump administration, will reignite the immigration debate.

Are we a country that recognizes the role 800,000 people have played in coming to America to lead normal lives, though, as children, they were brought into the country by their parents without proper authorization?

Are we a country that says laws are to be upheld without bending, even if it means productive workers and students are sent back to their native countries, punished for the sins of their parents?

Or are we a country that meets in the middle – with or without partisan politics in a key role?

Whatever the outcome, President Donald Trump signaled it’s up to Congress to craft legislation determining the fate of Dreamers here without proper authorization. It’s the same Congress that has one significant achievement in 2017 – a near party-line Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch.

Remember, to receive DACA status, residents had to come to the U.S. before turning 16 – their parents made the choice to come to America, not them. There are an estimated 12,500 Kansas residents who qualify for DACA status.

This could go in many directions. Even if there’s bipartisan support for a DACA fix, the president may want it attached to a broader immigration bill that includes funding for a southern wall. Democrats have called that a non-starter.

With a fall calendar that includes tax reform, raising the debt ceiling and Hurricane Harvey relief, there’s every indication politics will play a part in Dreamers’ futures.

Two of Kansas’ top elected officials were part of the movement to end DACA. Derek Schmidt was part of a group of attorneys general who wrote to the Trump administration demanding the end of the program. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a longtime crusader against illegal immigration, offered this blunt piece of advice Tuesday to those who lost DACA recognition and are “back to your illegal status.”

“I would suggest go home and get in line and come into the United States legally, then get a green card, then become a citizen,” Kobach said in an MSNBC interview. “Do it the right way like so many hundreds of thousands of your countrymen are trying to do.”

Except “home” for Dreamers is the United States – and let’s hope Kobach’s lack of compassion isn’t as prevalent in Kansas as Americans may think, based on his representation.

Republicans have a point with President Barack Obama’s 2012 DACA executive order. Knowing a GOP-led Congress wouldn’t touch the legislation, Obama sidestepped immigration law and created the program himself. The intent was good; the process wasn’t.

Republican reaction Tuesday ranged from hammering Obama for skirting the law and the legislative process to a pivot toward a solution that avoids mass deportations.

House speaker Paul Ryan wants a solution so “those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.” He also wants an indication from Trump on what kind of DACA solution he’d sign into law.

Many in Congress probably agree with Ryan’s stance, for moral and political reasons. Lawful permanent residence is a chance Dreamers deserve with appropriate requirements and safeguards.

Most young DACA residents have led productive, promising lives in the U.S. because they were given a chance. It’s time for Congress to lead. A second chance is deserved.