Over the weekend and with follow-up tweets Monday and today, President Donald Trump shared some thoughts on immigration that strongly suggest he either isn’t paying much attention to current events or he’s just trying to stir up his core supporters again in the face of Congressional inaction and negative attention in the media. Either is a possibility; a combination of both is a probability. If he can denounce dark-skinned immigrants, the Mexican government and Democrats in one fell tweet, this is a president who is willing to put in the effort during his morning “executive time” in front of the television or before he hits the links at Mar-a-Lago.
“NO MORE DACA DEAL,” was the thrust of one of a series of Twitter pronouncements President Trump made Sunday in Florida shortly after sending out the more traditional (and good-natured) Easter greetings. Mr. Trump not only pronounced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals dead, but he blamed Democrats and the Mexican government for allegedly lax border enforcement that has supposedly caused an influx of crime and drugs. He suggested that Republicans needed to change the rules of the Senate — a reference to the so-called “nuclear option” to end filibusters — to correct the situation and pointed to “caravans” of immigrants (most likely the group of Central American protesters in Mexico headed to the U.S. border to seek asylum) as motivated by an opportunity to take advantage of DACA. “The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there,” the president tweeted early Tuesday. “Cash cow NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen.”
Now, that’s a lot of disinformation and tantrum-throwing for one man, but let’s review. First is the notion that Democrats are the impediment to DACA. They are not. Mr. Trump could make this problem go away tomorrow if he chose. He created the dilemma in the first place by signing an executive action to end the program last year. He he has declined multiple opportunities to address its expiration since then. The Supreme Court ruled more than one month ago that the program could stay in place under terms of a lower court decision that has temporarily continued the program. And so 800,000 people who came to this country as children and have met the strict standards of DACA protections are now in limbo.
President Trump has at times expressed compassion for DACA recipients (“You know, I love these kids”) and at times treated them as bargaining chips for various immigration-related wish-list items, the first being a border wall, but when Democrats actually gave ground on border security funding, it morphed into demands for stricter limits on legal immigration including family reunification. After rejecting a bipartisan compromise, the president’s proposal failed not only to muster Democratic support in the Senate, it fell well below a 51-vote majority let alone the 60-vote margin to overcome a filibuster. Meanwhile, the notion that immigrants, particularly DACA recipients (who had to arrive in the U.S. by 2007 to even be eligible and include U.S. military veterans, teachers and students), are responsible for worsening U.S. crime rates is just wrong. Study after study shows that there’s less crime in immigrant communities, documented or undocumented, than in the U.S. overall. And DACA participants, in particular, are not an issue when it comes to crime because they are only eligible if they “have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.”
Some people have theorized that Mr. Trump’s immigration tweets were a reaction to a particular segment about the Mexico caravan that ran on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” program, a presidential favorite, and shaped by the views of hard-liners like adviser Stephen Miller. Was he being serious or just tossing a little red meat to the xenophobes? That he would throw NAFTA into the equation ignores the economic hardship the U.S. would suffer, as walking away from the agreement would result in new tariffs, higher consumer costs and new inroads for Asian producers into North American markets.
If there’s anything productive to be found in the latest Trump Twitter-storm, it’s a reminder that the best long-term solution for “Dreamers” is for Congress to extend protections, and a path to citizenship, for the DACA eligible — and, if possible, other productive members of U.S. society who merit such an opportunity. Generally speaking, immigrants make the U.S. a better place, not worse, and it’s time we stopped vilifying them. No wall is going to stop the flow of drugs into the country, but reducing demand for narcotics and addressing the nation’s opioid crisis (with better funding for treatment, for instance) would do wonders. Better to do the right thing and ignore the presidential Twitter account.