Editor’s Note: Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
On religious holidays like Christmas, Passover and Easter, most Presidents honor the occasion by sending a message of goodwill towards all Americans and then taking a break from politics.
Not our President. Just hours after tweeting “Happy Easter!” to his 49 million Twitter followers, Donald Trump began venting about illegal immigration. “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release,” he tweeted. “Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”
So much for the spirit of Holy Week. With his tweets, the President has displayed his ignorance of immigration laws, including those governing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. His social media outburst was as at best uninformed, and at worst blatantly misleading. In short, it was unpresidential.
For starters, it makes absolutely no logical sense that the President would make a big deal of announcing “NO MORE DACA DEAL”– in all caps, as though he were taking some bold new stance. Let’s recall, he was the one who ended DACA, the program that allowed roughly 800,000 young people brought here illegally as children, known as the Dreamers, to live and work openly.
The President unilaterally began the unwinding of this program in September, with no plan to replace it, and since then has rejected several bipartisan proposals that would have provided a legislative fix for the plight of the Dreamers. It is nonsensical for Trump to be vowing that there will be “no more deal” when there is not now and never has been any realistic chance of a DACA deal.
Referring to what he regards as unchecked illegal entries at our southern border, the President tweeted, “These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!” But his anger about illegal border crossings seems motivated by something other than…reality. In 2017, arrests at the southern border hit a 46-year low, the lowest number since 1971, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
In January 2017, for example, Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended about 42,400 people at the US/Mexico border; by April 2018 this number had dropped to about 15,700. In fact the drop in illegal entries under the Trump administration is something Trump himself has bragged about.
What is particularly startling about Trump’s comments this weekend is that he suggests that people are coming to the US without authorization to take advantage of the DACA program. But, thanks to Trump, DACA officially ended on March 5. Even if it were still in place, to be eligible for DACA, applicants must have lived in the US since 2007, have arrived before age 16, and been younger than 31 in June 2012.
New arrivals are not eligible for DACA – so to suggest that people are coming here to obtain the program’s protections is simply wrong.
Trump was incorrect to assert in one of his tweets Sunday that Mexico is doing “very little, if not NOTHING” to help stem the tide of illegal immigration.
Trump also threatened in a Sunday tweet that Republican lawmakers should use the so-called “nuclear option” to pass harsher immigration laws with a simple majority of 51 votes. Good luck with that. In February, only 36 out of 51 Senate Republicans backed an immigration plan that mirrored the White House’s demands.
Our immigration system is far from perfect, and has been regarded by many as broken since before Trump took office. However, the American people have consistently shown in polls that they think the Dreamers should be allowed to stay here and either legalize their status or get on a path to citizenship.
Last year, a Fox News poll found that 83% of voters favored allowing “illegal immigrants” working in the United States to become legal immigrants. Trump’s agenda is to stir controversy around one of the few immigration issues where consensus exists. And that wall that Trump insists we need? A range of polls show that only between 34 and 40% of Americans support his expensive idea.
Trump’s Easter tweets about immigration were nonsense. That the President, who holds so much power over the lives of the Dreamers and other immigrants, seemingly lacks basic knowledge about immigration policy is as troubling as it is astonishing.