| November 16, 2019 12:00 AM
The Supreme Court is considering fine questions of administrative law in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, but underlying the case are some much bigger questions which Congress and the Trump administration need to answer well.
We think President Barack Obama exceeded his executive authority in issuing his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. We also believe the Trump administration was within its rights to roll it back. But again, those are issues of secondary importance.
Mercy, justice, and sovereignty are the substantive issues involved in the Obama-era law granting legal status to immigrants who came illegally as children. Congress and the administration need to find a balance of these virtues, however the Supreme Court turns out — or better yet before the court ever rules.
The heart of the DACA story is this: Tens of thousands of immigrants in our country were brought here illegally as children by their parents. These immigrants, many now adults, bear no moral responsibility for their illegal entry, and so out of justice, it’s wrong to punish them. What’s more, many of these immigrants have known no other home than the United States of America. Whatever their parent’s tongue, whatever their legal status, these immigrants are, of right, Americans.
Out of mercy, out of respect for the fundamental rights of Americans, and observing their lake of culpability, we ought to find a way to legalize the Dreamers who have been here for many years.
Yet the discussion can’t end there. Any deal in which the White House and congressional Republicans grant relief to this set of illegal immigrants ought to include dramatic improvement in immigration enforcement, including more wall along the border and tougher enforcement against recent illegal entrants.
Granting limited amnesty can create a moral hazard and serve to invite thousands more to enter the U.S. illegally, expecting one day to get their own DACA or other sort of amnesty. That would be an unjust consequence of a national act of mercy. To prevent this outcome, we need enforcement.
Congress should fund the erection of walls or other physical barriers in the border sectors where walling is both needed and currently incomplete — for example, around McAllen, Texas. Congress should also draw a cutoff date on DACA, such as 2012, when Obama announced the policy. Anyone who entered after that with children is not eligible.
The final cutoff date can be a matter of negotiation, but the principles at play here must be clear. America is a compassionate nation, and Americans are a merciful people. A nation and a people are not a nation or a people if they do not control who enters or who joins them. U.S. immigration laws should be geared towards advancing the interests and protecting the rights of Americans.
We believe immigration helps America. We believe immigrants are great Americans. We also know that America needs strong immigration enforcement.
However the court rules, Congress and the White House should form these principles into a law borne of justice, mercy, and self-rule.