As many politicians have remarked in the past when swimming against the political tide, polling doesn’t necessarily yield good public policy. Yet Texas Republican lawmakers, if not the president of the United States, should consider the overwhelming consensus against rounding up and deporting young immigrants brought to the United States as children and now here illegally.
A newly released AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll suggests only 1 in 5 Americans favors deporting what are sometimes called “Dreamers.” That would indicate even many immigration hardliners have a soft spot for those who, through no fault of their own, were brought to our country illegally and, through the years, have been raised to the point they’re American in every respect but legally.
This should prompt all to think deeply about resolving this conundrum and, as we have stated previously, through the legislative branch, as President Trump has suggested. If children are to be blamed for the crimes of their parents, then we deport them. But many lawmakers know such a recourse is not only a hard sell legally — after all, are these children really guilty? — but it also runs counter to certain values we Americans hold.
Yet too many Republican lawmakers from Texas heap shame on us all by balking at fixing this problem, even now that President Trump has set the clock ticking on former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Thus far, Waco native Joe Barton, a longtime conservative Republican in Congress, has signed on as a co-sponsor of the 2017 DREAM Act, which would prevent deportation of these individuals. He and Republican Congressman Bill Flores, who represents Waco, are co-sponsors of the Recognizing America’s Children Act, which more narrowly defines conditions and protocols as it lays out a path to eventual U.S. citizenship. Other Texas Republicans have meanwhile made themselves scarce on the matter.
This shouldn’t be a fiercely partisan issue, given the vulnerability of those now in the cross hairs. As Texas Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke said on Thursday while alluding to 22-year-old Melissa Martinez, a DACA recipient who expects to receive an applied mathematics degree from the University of Texas at El Paso next May: “DACA recipients like Melissa from El Paso County are every bit as American as my three kids. They study in school, lead productive and successful careers, serve in our military and are a critical piece of the fabric of our communities. The DREAM Act has bipartisan, bicameral support and, if presented on the floor of the House today, it would pass.”
That means the fate of DACA recipients lies in the hands of congressional leadership. Veteran lawmakers such as Barton and those such as Flores, former chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, should be able to exert key influence here. It also means Democrats must be prepared to do some wheeling and dealing on other aspects of border security. To fail these young people now would prove Congress is truly dysfunctional, unworthy of the Article I powers conferred on them.