ECLECTIC RANT: Passing the Dream Act — a long shot at best

Ralph E. Stone
Friday September 08, 2017 - 01:12:00 PM

Trump has decided to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) over six months unless Congress steps in with its own plan for these childhood arrivals.

If Trump has a "great love for DACA recipients," he would have called on Congress to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act or Dream Act, and if it did, promise to sign it into law. 

The Dream Act  

The Dream Act was first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001, by Senators Dick Durbin (D- Illinois) and Orrin Hatch (R- Utah), and has since been reintroduced several times but has failed to pass.  

The Dream Act would require proof of arriving in the U.S before age 16; proof of U.S. residency for at least 5 consecutive years; have registered for the Selective Service; be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of the enactment of the bill; and have graduated from an American High School, obtained a GED, or been admitted into an institution of higher learning.  

During the first six years, qualifying people would be granted "conditional" status and be required to (a) graduate from a 2-year community college; (b) complete at least two years towards a four-year degree or (c) serve two years in the U.S. military. If they have met all of the conditions at the end of the 6-year conditional period, they would be granted permanent residency, which would eventually allow them to become U.S. citizens. 

Congress hasn't passed the Dream Act in the past and unless House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump get behind the Dream Act, it probably won't pass now. Remember, by deferring DACA, Trump played to his base who are delighted. Would his base approve of Trump signing the Dream Act? I doubt it.  

Obama had Authority to Issue DACA 

Trump should not be allowed to claim a legal justification for a political decision for it is absolute nonsense that Obama's issuance of DACA by executive order was unconstitutional. Once an individual is in the U.S., it is the executive branch, not Congress, that decides who will be deported. And Congress did not allocate enough money for the executive branch to deport the approximately 11.3 million undocumented aliens. As a result, most administrations focus enforcement on undocumented individuals who are national security threats, criminals, or who similarly endanger the “public safety.” It was within Obama's discretionary power as executive to focus less on "low priority" aliens such as childhood arrivals.  

The executive does have the unilateral authority to permit certain undocumented immigrants to remain in the country — a process known as “deferred action” — the benefits afforded to DACA beneficiaries flow from federal law. Federal regulations promulgated in 1981, for example, list “an alien who has been granted deferred action” as one of several kinds of immigrants who may “apply for employment authorization” from the federal government. Thus, it was within Obama's power to allow DACA beneficiaries to live and work in the U.S. 

I am hopeful that the Dream Act or similar act will be signed into law. I am not optimistic though.