There are certainly many real issues with illegal immigration that need to be addressed. The porous borders, the crime associated with some illegal immigrants, the heightened competition for jobs at the bottom of the wage distribution, and an entire community of people forced to live in the shadows is not anyone’s idea of an acceptable status quo. But even if we were to accept that Donald Trump’s basic position on immigration is correct, simply overturning DACA addresses none of these problems. DACA specifically applies to non‐criminals, who only broke our immigration laws unwittingly through the actions of their parents. The program is focused on bringing people out of the shadows and making sure they don’t take American jobs by working for less than the minimum wage. Overturning DACA does nothing to seal the border, protect us from violence, or create jobs. The only thing it would really accomplish is to uproot people who have lived almost their whole lives in this country and send them into hostile, foreign environments for the sake of politics.
All presidents have the most political capital at the beginning of their first term, and it spoils rapidly. It is therefore wise to use that time to accomplish the biggest, most difficult tasks. The fact that Trump is blessed with both a Republican House and Senate should not be disregarded. Focusing his efforts on meaningfully securing the border would be entirely appropriate under these circumstances. On the other hand, using up valuable energy on deporting children will only make it more difficult for him to accomplish more meaningful goals later in his presidency.
Even if Trump is convinced that DACA is bad policy, overturning it through executive order makes for bad governance and would set an unfortunate precedent early on. President Obama faced a great deal of criticism for being overly imperialistic in his use of executive branch powers to achieve his goals, whereas Trump repeatedly boasted on the campaign trail about his ability to make deals and work with anyone. Congress has already signalled a willingness to re‐legislate DACA. Trump should seize that chance to restore constitutional process to the American government, simultaneously distinguishing himself from his predecessor and assuaging the fears of those who expect him to be an autocrat.
Above all, this is a chance for Trump to bring the nation together. His tough position on immigration has led some to label him as an unapologetic racist and bully. Taking a more nuanced approach to DACA would show critics that he is not without sympathy for the plight of immigrants who didn’t knowingly violate our laws. By all means, he can be a tough immigration enforcer, fulfilling his campaign promises and address the aspects of illegal immigration that actually hurt Americans without throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. This is Trump’s opportunity to show that he will govern as a dealmaker, a realist, and a pragmatist, instead of a showboating ideologue with little concern for the consequences of his policies. The question is whether he will seize it.