Thursday, September 7, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He promised DACA recipients he wouldn't take action against them until their statuses begin expiring six months from now.

The reassurance came at the behest of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who seemed bemused at how easy it was to get Trump to tweet this. Her surprise is understandable: a promise not to prioritize DACA recipients for deportation is, at bottom, all the program is. Trump's argument for rescinding DACA--to the extent he knows what it is--is that the president has no such authority to decide which undocumented immigrants to deport first. 

In effect, Trump is promising to continue to engage in what he says he believes is an unlawful and unconstitutional abuse of power for up to thirty more months. (Recipients whose status expires in the next six months can apply for a two year extension, under Trump's proposed extension of what he called President Obama's "illegal amnesty.") 

Of course, Trump's extension of DACA is very likely lawful, just as the program itself is: no significant legal challenge was even filed against it until Trump (who had campaigned against it, and was therefore unlikely to defend it) had been elected. Trump has not tried to reconcile his official stance on the subject with the fact that he will allow it to remain in force for at least the first 1,139 days of his administration.

What's the problem with this?

  • Whether or not something is lawful and constitutional does not depend on which president is doing it.
  • Policy driven this transparently by political considerations is rarely good policy.