Since its wholly arbitrary creation by President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) nearly six years ago, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has granted amnesty to hundreds of thousands of people from abroad illegally arriving here as children, whether or not accompanied by parents. As DACA undermines U.S. sovereignty, security and rule of law, and very likely is unconstitutional, its elimination would seem a no-brainer. Yet President Donald Trump and Congress, under extreme pressure to “do something” about immigration, may be on the verge of retaining it. Unions, predictably, are among interest groups applying the pressure.
DACA owes its existence to a misguided assumption that coming to, and remaining in, America is a moral right. If a person is “undocumented,” that should not be any basis for deportation. The program was a by-product of stalled immigration legislation pushed during the second term of President George W. Bush. Part of that legislation would have allowed persons illegally arriving in the U.S. as minors to stay as long as they hold a job, attend college or serve in the military; most of these “dreamers,” as they are called, are now young adults. In June 2012, President Obama, eager to circumvent Congress, created the DACA program based on a series of memos issued by then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. The result has been about 800,000 “dreamers” remaining here, often gaming our system of public benefits.
Rightly concerned over the impact of this program, President Trump last September signed an order phasing it out following a six-month hold-harmless period during which no new applications would be accepted. In recent weeks he has backpedaled, an indication that he might accept the continuation of DACA in exchange for Congress authorizing completion of the U.S.-Mexico border security wall, reducing allowable levels of family-based migration, and eliminating the “diversity” visa lottery program. The president may be underestimating the ferocity of the opposition – especially from unions.
As late as the Eighties, unions opposed mass immigration. They argued, sensibly, that the large-scale introduction of a mainly uneducated and low-skilled foreign labor force would undercut American wages and benefits. For various reasons, their leaders since then have fully reversed course. In February 2000, the AFL-CIO executive board came out in support of amnesty. Since then, unions consistently have tried to block immigration restriction or enforcement in favor of a “comprehensive” system that would make the current one less operable. By boosting the supply of uneducated Third World workers willing to accept subpar wages, labor officials have worked against the interests of their members. Accordingly, rank and file are cooler toward mass immigration than their leaders.
Oblivious to such unintended consequences, labor officials are denouncing Trump in caustic language. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (in photo) last September called the DACA cancellation a “direct attack on union members and union values.” Unions, he declared, “will stand with these brave young workers and fight for legislation so that the contributions they make are celebrated rather than assaulted.” United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard scolded the White House: “Deporting young people brought to the United States by parents lacking proper documentation to immigrate is punishing the child for the dreams of the parents.”
Such rhetoric becomes toxic when labor leaders double as ethnic capos. Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, reacting to the cancellation, fumed: “This shameful move is cruel and only seeks to fuel Trump’s anti-immigrant and racist agenda.” And Monica Thammarath, president of the Asian-Pacific American Labor Alliance, an AFL-CIO affiliate, vowed: “Know we will protect, defend, and fight for you – our immigrant brothers, sisters and siblings – from raids, detention and deportation.”
That is what the Trump administration and patriotic immigration reformers in Congress are up against. And believe it: Any compromise legislation is likely to turn out to be a classic “bait and switch.” In other words, DACA will remain but the promised restrictions will be unfunded or otherwise blocked. This past Tuesday, union bosses got a boost from a San Francisco federal judge, William Alsup, who temporarily blocked Trump’s action pending resolution of lawsuits filed on behalf of amnesty seekers.
DACA must end. If made permanent, it would make immigration policy and enforcement far more difficult than it already is. And it would further depress entry-level wages, especially given ongoing workplace automation. The program not only serves no national purpose, it undermines it. Beneficiaries are called “dreamers,” but their union champions forget that American workers also have dreams such as paying their bills and keeping their country.