Mr. President, DACA isn't your reality show

Trump's twists and turns on DACA
Trump's twists and turns on DACA

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Story highlights

  • Dean Obeidallah: Donald Trump is treating his DACA decision like it's the season finale of a reality TV show
  • But with lives hanging in the balance, there's no place for this type of showmanship, Obeidallah writes

Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio's daily program "The Dean Obeidallah Show" and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @deanofcomedy. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)You can take Donald Trump out of the reality show, but it seems you can't take the reality show mentality out of Donald Trump.

And we are seeing it again with how President Trump has been despicably building drama over his expected decision on whether to end or phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. After first indicating he would act on DACA last week, then changing his story more than once, Trump has essentially turned nearly 800,000 young people who are desperately awaiting a decision on their fate into contestants on his dysfunctional reality show.
Dean Obeidallah
DACA took effect by executive order in 2012 as a way to allow children brought to the United States by their parents in violation of immigration laws to remain in the country without fear of deportation if they comply with a long list of requirements. DACA has truly been a life-changing program for many, by allowing these young people to have hopes and dreams without fear of suddenly being deported back to a country where they have no memories or contacts.
    As one "Dreamer," Andrea Fernandez, explained on my SiriusXM radio show last week, even though she graduated high school in Texas with a 4.0 average, she wouldn't have been able to legally attend a US college without DACA. But thanks to this program, the 21-year-old Fernandez was able to enroll in college in Texas, where she is a model student, leading student organizations and dreaming one day of running for the US Congress.
    But given President Trump's pending decision, Andrea says she is afraid. And who wouldn't be if you were in her shoes, like the thousands of other young people awaiting the President's decision? Making matters worse for these young people is that it appears that Donald Trump -- like the master showman he is -- has intentionally sought to stoke the anticipation surrounding his decision.
    On Friday afternoon, Trump told reporters the decision on DACA would come later that day or over the weekend. About an hour later, Trump added to the tension by saying the decision would come Monday at the latest. But only two hours after that, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders injected Hollywood levels of drama by declaring the announcement would come on Tuesday.
    And even President Trump's statements over the last few days seem better suited to building buzz for the season finale of a reality show than to a policy decision. On Friday, he stated, "We love the Dreamers." That statement would have been a great sign to the Dreamers that DACA was safe, but in true Trump fashion, the President refused to show his hand by then adding, "We love everybody."
    Some might think this is just Donald Trump wrestling with a tough decision. But his history makes it more likely this is just more of his governing like he's hosting a show.
    Trump put on spectacle straight out of reality TV in February when announcing Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court justice nominee, with a prime time announcement that rivaled any season finale of "The Apprentice."
    He played the same game over whether he was secretly recording conversations that occurred in the Oval Office, refusing to tell the media one way or another for weeks until finally giving an answer. And in July, the inner workings of the White House had a reality-show feel that bordered on soap opera, complete with fiery characters bad-mouthing each other with President Trump's supposed blessing.
    But with the lives of these nearly 800,000 young people hanging in the balance, there's no place for this type of showmanship. People like Andrea Fernandez are wondering what happens to them if Trump rescinds DACA. As she said to me: "Are they [immigration agents] going to go after my parents? Are they come knocking on doors trying to find us?" She fears being deported to Mexico, a country she left when her mother brought her to America when she was 8 -- and has never returned to.
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    These Dreamers are unfortunately dependent on the compassion and empathy of Donald Trump. As Fernandez noted, "It feels so unreal that some people are willing to hurt almost a million people just because of something we couldn't control ... it's unfair and unkind." She is right.
    Let's hope at least this one time President Trump can be more focused on the reality of his decision -- and not the reality-show aspects of making and announcing it. Let's hope he continues DACA, so these young people can continue living, thriving and dreaming in the country they call home: the United States of America.