Racial Animus: Trump Breaks DACA Promise
In April, Donald Trump told the Associated Press that “dreamers,” those benefiting from President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that allowed undocumented immigrants brought into the country while they were children to work and attend school without threat of deportation, they could “rest easy,” presumably because Trump wouldn’t rescind their protection. Well, as usual with Trump, he lied. Trump breaks his DACA promise ostensibly because he doubts its legality, though the immigration leeway his authority claimed when signing the similarly bigoted travel ban reveals Trump’s actions arise not from constitutional concerns but from racial animus.
DACA, after its initial implementation, sparked resistance from conservative sates, 26 of which, led by Texas, sued the Obama administration for “ignoring federal procedures for changing rules and of abusing the power of his office by sidestepping Congress.” Though this argument succeeded in the courts, culminating in a 4-4 split Supreme Court decision, it did not contend that the administration had violated the Constitution. Instead, the states focused solely on execution, seeking to delay the program.
Other conservatives spoke against DACA because its origination through an executive order eroded the separation of powers as the president assumed authority traditionally reserved for the legislative branch. These arguments have merit as immigration should be within the realm of congressional action — Congress came close to enacting immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, in 2010 and 2013, only to be stopped by Republicans. But Trump’s clearly not concerned with respecting the legislative right to create immigration policy.
Trump Breaks DACA Promise Because of Race, Not the Separation of Power
Trump, of course, has a broad interpretation of presidential authority. He fancies a strong executive somewhat above the law capable of crafting far-reaching policies without Congress’s input. No where is this clearer than in Trump’s two travel ban executive orders.
Both travel bans, the one struck down by the courts and the watered-down version partially legalized by the Supreme Court, rely on generous readings of the president’s abilities to respond to (real or perceived) national security threats. In oral arguments, the Deputy Solicitor General asserted, per Kleindienst v. Mandel, a 1972 Supreme Court case on barring communists from entry into the United States, that the president need only provide a “facially legitimate and bona fide reason” for executive immigration restrictions. Historically, courts have given significant leeway to those national security interests put forth by various administrations (wrongly, for civil rights should never be abridged for only “facially legitimate” reasons. To vest the president with such great power as to cutoff immigration, courts must adjudicate based on truly legitimate national security concerns).
The administration failed to meet even the nebulous standard of “facially legitimate and bona fide reason[s]” because the travel bans originated from an attempt to legalize his proposed Muslim Ban. Statements made by the administration and friends thereof coupled with weak contentions led the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to conclude that both of Trump’s executive orders stemmed from his “desire to exclude Muslims from the United States. The statements also reveal President Trump’s intended means of effectuating the ban: by targeting majority-Muslim nations instead of Muslims explicitly. And after courts enjoined EO-1, the statements show how President Trump attempted to preserve its core mission: by issuing EO-2—a ‘watered down’ version with ‘the same basic policy outcomes.”
Clearly, to pursue and defend such a policy, Trump believes in extreme deference to the executive branch when it comes to immigration (even the vaguest national security interest allowing him to unilaterally shape policy). By no means does this square his administration’s claim that “The Department of Justice has carefully evaluated [DACA’s] Constitutionality and determined it conflicts with our existing immigration laws.”
Trump cannot claim, on the one hand, that he has the unilateral ability to change existing immigration laws to ban travel from six Muslim-majority countries while, on the other, claiming he cannot tinker with existing law by changing deportation priorities (which could fit Trump’s delighted broad national security interest excuses by ensuring the United States has enough (educated) workers to create a secure and strong economy). He obviously believes he has the authority to enforce DACA, but he hasn’t the will. Why?
Both the travel ban and ending DACA play to his base’s (white) grievances and cultural anxiety around the influx of new religions, cultures, and different skin colors. In campaign filled with dog-whistles and outright bigotry, including Trump’s insulting remarks about Mexico sending its rapists and drug dealers and a federal judge being unable to do his job because of his heritage, Occam’s Razor requires that we view this action for it is: Trump breaks his DACA promise with hopes of deporting 800,000 undocumented immigrants, not in hopes of restoring Congress’s power.