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In the News

Rep. Darrell Issa: Why congressional DACA action may kickstart immigration reform

In The News
Sep 18, 2017

Why congressional DACA action may kickstart immigration reform
San Diego Union-Tribune
By: Congressman Darrell Issa | Sept. 15, 2017

The problem with governing by executive order is that it provides no reliable guarantee of certainty: what one administration assembles, the next can just as easily dismantle. That’s one of the many reasons DACA — the program created through executive order by President Barack Obama to protect from deportation the children of illegal immigrants brought here years ago in their youth — always made a poor replacement for actual immigration reform.

It’s also why, now that the Trump administration has decided to rescind this order, it’s important for Congress to come together to do the job they should have done years ago and finally fix our broken immigration system.

This posed a challenge for President Obama, who for years simultaneously refused to work with Congress while insisting he didn’t have the legal authority to take action on his own. Finding himself at a crossroads, he chose to rewrite the nation’s immigration law by executive decree, creating further uncertainty for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought here by their parents through no fault of their own.

I criticized this at the time, writing in an earlier column that “it is inherently un-American to create a new group of second-class citizens that are allowed to stay indefinitely but given an indefinite unknown status.”

The same still holds true today.

With a six-month deadline before the administration officially begins unwinding DACA, now is the time for Congress to step up and craft a meaningful solution.

It would be neither fair nor feasible to expel all of the dreamers from the country. First of all, hundreds are currently serving in the military, defending our nation. Others are decades into a life in America — educated, hardworking and law-abiding. Brought here by their parents as children, they spent their formative years in the U.S. where they learned their first words, attended school, graduated and obtained their first jobs. Still more are following the process outlined by their government: When asked to register for DACA status, they stopped hiding, came out of the shadows and did the right thing. The hundreds of thousands of dreamers are none other than the victims of their parents’ actions and hope to find some way to be brought into the system so they can legally stay in the only home they’ve truly known.

At the same time, it would be a mistake to simply declare blanket amnesty and grant full citizenship to anyone with a DACA designation. This would be a clear violation of the spirit of our legal immigration ideal, punishing those who have carefully complied with the law and patiently waited their turn.

There is a better way, one that gets to the heart of the problem, addresses it as a policy challenge and applies a lasting solution.

The plan I propose is a simple one. For the next five years, let’s set aside 15 percent of the over one million visa slots we already award every year in order to make them available to qualified dreamers, so they move into the legal immigration line and have a certain legal path forward in this country. So many are siblings or family members of legal immigrants and U.S. citizens, that it makes sense to use a small portion of these slots to provide certainty for these young individuals. The benefit of this approach would be clear. It keeps neutral the overall number of green cards issued, and provides a reasonable path forward that would allow us to address all of the dreamers who seek to stay within just five years — and all within our existing legal immigration frameworks.

But Congress must also go further. We must also right the failures of the past by reforming our immigration system as a whole. Having confronted and dealt with the DACA quandary, there can be no better time to enact the concrete measures we need to strengthen our borders, enhance enforcement of our laws and prevent this problem from happening again.

For years, I’ve put forth bipartisan reform proposals that would create a more efficient legal immigration system, that can adjust to the changing needs of our growing nation and, yes, improve the protection of our border. Those ideas must be part of the equation, too.

The American people deserve a sense of seriousness in Washington and a solution that lasts for all time. If we fail, we will be letting down a lot more than the 800,000 dreamers, we’ll also be letting down a nation that expects — and deserves — leaders with vision and action with integrity.

Issa, R-Vista, represents California’s 49th Congressional District. He is a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee which oversees immigration issues.


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