One year ago, my opinion piece entitled “Dreamers Deserve Our Attention and Respect” was published in this outlet. In that writing, I articulated that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is “simply a band-aid” and that it is a “temporary solution” accomplished through executive action as opposed to the much needed legislative feat. Sadly, a year later we are still waiting for that legislation.
Instead of advancing immigration policy in the United States Congress, where it truly belongs, we are regressing by allowing the executive branch to affect immigration policy through rules which create confusion and unnecessary stress among the most vulnerable.
A recent rule proposal in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would require immigration caseworkers to consider a much wider range of factors when evaluating whether someone is likely to be dependent on public assistance. The proposal would penalize immigrants using tax credits and other government benefits, including Obamacare, children’s health insurance, and food stamps. It is not clear if this rule applies to those who followed law and rules to be in our country legally.
Regardless of your political views, DACA as a rule or this DHS rule is not necessary if we pass a cogent immigration law to guide our nation and our values.
Difference Between Law and Rules
As a former regulator in the state of California, I understand the difference between law and rules. I explain to my students that the law is like the human skeleton as it provides a framework to the policy. Regulations are like the muscles and skin that flesh out the skeleton to make it move. While regulation is a way to effect policy, legislation remains the most significant way to make policy.
The U.S.’ immigration skeleton has been broken by numerous administrations and congresses over several decades. No one has had the courage to pass comprehensive immigration reform to clearly state who can be welcomed as an immigrant and who cannot. For almost 250 years we have been enriched by immigrants in this experiment called the United States of America by proclaiming “e pluribus unum” (out of many, one).
Democrats, fix the laws. Don’t RESIST. We are doing a far better job than Bush and Obama, but we need strength and security at the Border! Cannot accept all of the people trying to break into our Country. Strong Borders, No Crime!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2018
No other country offers what our nation offers. I know this first-hand as I am one of those immigrants who were able to simply become an American, go to law school, practice law, run and be elected to public office, be a gubernatorial appointee and now a professor in one of the world’s best research universities.
Immigrants who adopt our American values, educate, excel, and thrive in our country are assets and certainly not liabilities. In my opinion piece of last year, I encouraged the administration and Congress to work together to act on DACA. I said that “the real challenge for the President [and Congress] is to think of a more meritorious group than Dreamers enrolled in our universities. [The President’s] swift action in this arena as limited as it may be, for the time being, will signal his and his administration’s [and Congress’] credibility and commitment to real immigration policy.” Unfortunately, nothing has changed.
The lack of immigration policy continues to worry DACA students about deportation. With the proposed rule that would penalize immigrants whose families receive public benefits, it looks like we are adding another vulnerable group of immigrants to have sleepless nights.
To be clear, I understand national sovereignty, the rule of law, and the need for legal immigration, but this is not the way to get it.
My message to all parties in Congress is the same; finger pointing and blaming the other has never been responsible for policy. Do your job without regard to your ideology. Your lack of care is apparent in the result and, more importantly, you are harmfully affecting the lives of real men, women, and children. I know that is not an American value.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.