After choosing a more challenging and polarizing legislative agenda, two important subject matters may unite a divided Congress and the president of the United States. The leadership of both parties has signaled the ever-growing need for an infrastructure policy and reasonable immigration reform.
President Donald J. Trump can and must act on immigration policy now. Speaking with the Associated Press not long ago, the President remarked that Dreamers “should rest easy.” Easier said than done. There is not a more meritorious group of young men and women for permanent residency than the undocumented students in our universities, the recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) referred to as Dreamers under President Barack Obama. However, as a policy, DACA is simply a band aid. It is time to remove that band aid and heal the wound underneath especially for this group, once and for all.
The president has five very good reasons to act on DACA immediately by executive order and then encouraging Congress to deliver a focused bill for his signature in the next 30 days. While comprehensive immigration reform is necessary, nothing is more urgent than the easing of the minds of our university students.
To integrate Dreamers who are enrolled in our universities as of January 1, 2017, is morally and legally consistent with our American Dream. The often-cited declaration of Independence boldly proclaims, “[W]e hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush supported homeownership as part of that dream. While running for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton included college and health insurance for children. In a more material context, upward mobility which is often achieved by education is at the center of our freedom and happiness. President Trump during his campaign spoke about the importance of education and upward mobility even in his own personal life. No better group for our president and congressional leaders to support for this American Dream than the Dreamers themselves.
Many of these Dreamers, now young adults, are in our universities worried about the academic challenges that lay ahead, soon to be mid-terms or finals like any other student. Unlike any other student, however, they are also sleepless for fear of the law. Each nation is the final authority of its immigration laws within its territorial boundaries. Violation of that authority is neither desirable nor sustainable. A permanent fix is a must.
However, these children did not choose to violate or had the legal capacity to violate that authority. It is a well-known legal principal that we do not impute guilt to someone who is incapable of committing a legal wrong. Unfortunately, today, instead of leading in our local, state governments and universities by proposing a prompt and dispositive legal solution for these young adults, we worry them by challenging an unchallengeable authority.
At the macro level, it is truly naïve for our local, state and university leaders to claim that they can “protect” our students, friends and neighbors who happen to be undocumented in the United States. Political grandstanding has led to a complete ignorance of the rule of law and well-established constitutional preemption doctrine.
Instead of easing the minds of this vulnerable population with reasonable and bold negotiated solutions, “sanctuary” cities, counties, states and universities challenge the constitutional authority of the federal government and a potential federal court order without being able to back up their rhetoric with the law or result-oriented action. This friction and competition between federal, local and university administrations are not helpful nor effective.
Good public administration and governance among other things demand efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and results. In my previous article published in “The Conversation,” I said, “Trump could shock a divided nation back to life as a collaborator in chief.” In that article, I pointed to various signs and potentials that “signal more collaborative framework at the national level of governance in a country that has been divided by political rhetoric and administrative stalemate for well over a decade.” Unfortunately, so far, we witnessed more division than collaboration.
Immigration policy presents itself as a great opportunity for the president to formulate and implement meaningful policy. President Trump spoke about “merit” as an immigration policy concept referring to other countries like Canada and Australia implementing the same. The promises of collaboration made during his speech to Congress, the ensuing polls and assessments are political in nature. The American people have heard them before from former presidents and politicians.
For those of us who call public administration and governance our discipline, the promises nor the polls mean much without true collaboration and more importantly meaningful implementation. The real challenge for the President is to think of a more meritorious group than Dreamers enrolled in our universities. His swift action in this arena as limited as it may be, for the time being, will signal his and his administration’s credibility and commitment to real immigration policy.
Finally, his action on DACA will translate into two important and distinct political wins for the president. His popularity and support in institutions of higher learning are marginal at best. My colleagues in academia and student bodies across the nation, instead of resisting or opposing president’s policies, will join him in delivering the American Dream to this small group of scholars who achieved much considering their limited resources.
The second win the president can share with his Republican colleagues is by demonstrating to the Latino and immigrant communities that he and his party are indeed answerable for real results in a divided world of politics. Instead of complaining about the perceived political persuasions of immigrant populations, the GOP can truly compete for their loyalty by acting with effective and meaningful policy.
DACA has been a temporary solution. Many of these children are now in our universities worried about being deported. Why not try something new? Why not align our interests with the federal government for every DACA scholar in our universities? This is a public administrator’s response to a real policy challenge that is ripe for solving. I know that the students will sleep much better at night with a green card in their pockets rather than political documents or nonbinding resolutions of alleged support admittedly for a very deserving group of future Americans.