A president issues an executive order. A court throws it out on a technicality. The president issues a new order, addressing the court’s concerns. Another court throws that out, on another technicality. And on and on. This is no way to enact national policy, and it certainly is no way to treat hundreds of thousands of people whose legal status hangs in the balance.
We’ve lost track of how many different executive orders have been issued regarding the right of lifelong American residents to stay here. President Biden has promised yet another version of the order to address issues that a federal judge says invalidates the current one.
The issue seems simple enough: Do people who were brought to this country as children and know no other homeland have a right to stay here? It seems logical: “Dreamers,” as they are known due to the proposed legislation that Congress failed to pass in 2001, did not come to this country of their own volition; they’ve lived, been educated and worked in the United States their entire lives and have proven they benefit their communities and our country has a whole. It’s popular: A February poll by Vox and Data for Progress shows that 69% of likely voters “strongly” support offering Dreamers a path to citizenship; the number rose to 86% when they were asked if they “somewhat” supported naturalization. Other polls similarly indicate that more than three-fourths of Americans accept them as compatriots.
For more than two decades Congress has failed to resolve the issue. As a result, the Obama administration in 2012 issued a policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allowing people who met certain guidelines to apply for renewable two-year visas enabling them to live and work in this country without fear of deportation.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville declared in June that the policy was invalid — not in principle, but on procedural grounds; the new policy was enacted without required steps such as public hearings and public comments. The Biden administration has appealed Hanen’s ruling, but also took steps to address his concerns, submitting a rule proposal Sept. 27 on the issue. Public comments are being taken through Nov. 29. People can offer comments through the regulations.gov website, referencing DHS Docket No. 2021-0006.
This is only the latest legal hurdle on Dreamers’ path to acceptance. Even President Trump’s efforts to rescind the Obama order failed not on their merits, but on administrative grounds; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Trump order offered insufficient grounds for the action, and did not address the arguments that were used to justify the original order.
Immigration policy must be set by Congress, not by the courts. Chief Justice John Roberts made that clear in his majority ruling on the Trump order.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. The wisdom of those decisions is none of our concern,” Roberts wrote.
The presidents’ actions — and Congress’ inaction — must not be tolerated any longer. President Biden’s needs to pressure lawmakers to stop abdicating their responsibility, and start working on real, sensible immigration reform.