Two days after his meeting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the White House, President Donald Trump slipped the imminence of an executive order on migration that would include a path to citizenship and relief for the beneficiaries of DACA, the popular program that benefits around 700,000 undocumented youth, the overwhelming majority of them Mexican.
Considering that in the corridors of Washington it was anticipated that the Trump administration was preparing to renew its petition for the elimination of DACA, after the Supreme Court of Justice had ruled that its first attempt was “arbitrary and capricious”, the news caused surprise, and confusion, every time Trump said about DACA, “We included it and probably later removed it.”
It is not the first time that Trump has made public promises about the future of the DREAMers. During his presidential campaign, he offered a humanitarian solution, which never materialized, even though a majority of Americans support the program, including almost 50% of those who identify as Republicans.
In 2017, once in the White House, Trump used DACA as a negotiating letter with Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer. But he injected several poisonous pills into the discussions: DACA in exchange for full funding of the border wall and draconian reductions to legal migration. It was a cocktail that the Democratic leaders did not accept to digest. The negotiations collapsed.
Two years later, Pelosi’s Democrats passed in the House of Representatives the HR-6 (American Dream and Promise Bill – ADPA). It includes a path to legalization and citizenship for some 2.5 million immigrants, including DREAMers.
Although a senatorial version of the initiative is sponsored by one of the president’s closest supporters, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the bill remains stalled in the Senate.
It is unclear whether the President of the United States has the power to implement immigration reform through an executive order. Even if it did, the idea sparked rejection by prominent members of his party such as Senator Ted Cruz. “There is ZERO constitutional authority for the president to create a path to citizenship,” he famously remarked.
But there is a simple and immediate way in which President Trump can clear the smoke screens and demonstrate a tangible change in his attitude towards migrants in general and Mexicans in particular: Announce that he desists from eliminating DACA, restoring acceptance of new applicants and call Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to vote on Bill S-874, the Senate version of HR6. And he can do it today.