Trump, Sessions stick to Constitutional letter of law with DACA decision
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the official rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Tuesday morning, and in his remarks he emphasized the priorities of the administration that led to the decision.
For Sessions and President Donald Trump, ending DACA was not a personal decision against a group of people. It was about restoring the balance among the branches of government to the way the Founding Fathers intended, after that balance was disrupted when former president Barack Obama instituted the policy in 2012.
Here are some of the highlights from Sessions’ speech, detailing the position of the administration on DACA:
Obama circumvented Congress to implement DACA.
Leading up to the implementation of DACA, Congress had repeatedly failed to pass bills aimed at creating some sort of amnesty program for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Because it wasn’t getting done in the legislative branch, Obama decided to use prosecutorial discretion to create the policy unilaterally from the executive branch.
“In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions,” Sessions said. “Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”
It’s the Attorney General’s job to uphold the law impartially.
As the Attorney General of the United States, Sessions’ primary concern is to ensure that the law is upheld and applied in the best interests of the citizenship as a whole, and the the Constitution is interpreted in a manner true to the intention of its authors.
He cannot allow relatively narrow interests of certain sections of the population to dictate his actions, particularly when they contradict the law as it has been established. Regardless of any personal feelings for or against the “DREAMers,” Sessions is bound to the law.
“No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our Republic, than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law,” Sessions said. “Societies where the rule of law is treasured are societies that tend to flourish and succeed.”
It is doubtful whether DACA would have held up in court.
In 2014, Obama proposed another amnesty program called the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which would have offered a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant parents whose children are residents or citizens of the United States. That policy was blocked in federal court in 2015.
If DACA had been renewed by Trump, it was on the road to being challenged in court on some of the same grounds that DAPA was blocked on.
“Our collective wisdom is that the policy is vulnerable to the same legal and constitutional challenges that the courts recognized with respect to the DAPA program, which was enjoined on a nationwide basis in a decision affirmed by the Fifth Circuit,” Sessions said. “The Fifth Circuit specifically concluded that DACA had not been implemented in a fashion that allowed sufficient discretion, and that DAPA was ‘foreclosed by Congress’s careful plan.’”
The reasons the Trump administration has provided for ending the DACA program are not rooted in personal bias toward “DREAMers” or immigrants in general. Rather, the administration is focused on upholding the standards of governance the U.S. has long operated under, and now the legislative branch once again has the opportunity to determine the fate of the 800,000 people whose future is uncertain because of this decision, based on the will of the people who elected them.