That program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), provides a two-year renewable deportation reprieve to undocumented individuals up to age 30 if they entered the United States before they were 16. They can stay and work here legally if they have lived continuously in the States for five years of more, not been convicted of a felony, a major misdemeanor, or three lesser misdemeanors. They must also be in school, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, or served in the military.
These unauthorized immigrants, many of whom were brought by their parents to the States as infants or toddlers and often are not fluent in the language of the country where they were born, are colloquially known as “DREAMers” because they meet the requirements of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The act never mustered enough support to pass Congress since it was first introduced in 2001. But an immigration bill including similar provisions cleared the Senate last July. It was blocked in the House. But the DREAM Act and the Senate bill would provide conditional permanent residency to young unauthorized immigrants who meet a list of conditions similar to but more extensive than DACA's.
Hard to know whether Issa is just being callous to the young people protected by DACA, who number as many as 1.8 million, or this is just another of his pokes at the president. The California representative has been openly antagonistic to Obama from the moment he took the presidential oath more than five years ago.
Whatever the case, Issa and other Republicans blame DACA for the unaccompanied minors now flooding across the southern border into the States, with as many as 60,000 expected to wind up in federal custody this year.
More to read on this below the fold.
Elise Foley quotes from the Issa letter:
"[T]he very existence of the program contradicts present law and violates the Constitutional principle of a separation of powers which grants primary law making authority to the Congress," Issa wrote. "The Executive does not get to pick and choose which laws must be enforced and which can be selectively ignored. ... DACA rewards families and individuals who have broken our laws, further encouraging others to seek similar benefits."Issa's and other Republicans' approach is harsh, unproductive and simpleminded.
Issa wrote later that Obama should "make an explicit public commitment that [he] will not support legislation that extends legal status to newly arriving illegal aliens no matter the age." The immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last year does not allow people who came to the U.S. after the end of 2011 to earn legal status—meaning children who enter today wouldn't be eligible for that reprieve, either.
Kathleen Newland, founder of the Migration Policy Institute writes:
In the absence of a policy plan to address the surge in unauthorized child arrivals, simplistic explanations and draconian “solutions” are already starting to make their appearance: the surge is the result of immigration reform promises or administrative reforms in enforcement; the problem could be resolved by bottling it up in transit countries (Mexico and Guatemala) or by treating the children as adults. At the other end of the spectrum, some contend these children should all be given asylum and allowed to stay in the United States permanently.The administration is employing a multi-agency approach to deal with the problem. This has included Obama's jawboning of the president of Mexico and a trip to Guatemala by Vice President Joe Biden. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also plans a trip to Guatemala later this summer.
In reality, the problem is enormously complex. Addressing push factors that include flight from gang violence (and the inability of local police to protect against it) and endemic poverty as well as pull factors such as the deeply held desires for family reunification require policy interventions not just by the United States but within the region. [...]
The research findings are preliminary but sobering. The UNHCR report, based on a small but representative sample, suggests that high proportions of the children in custody—nearly six out of ten—have had experiences that may form the basis for relief from deportation: as refugees, victims of trafficking, juveniles recruited into criminal enterprises, or other statuses. Statistics from the Vera Institute of Justice’s Unaccompanied Children Program, funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, show that 40 percent of unaccompanied child migrants taken into ORR custody in 2008-10 and screened under the VERA program were eligible for some kind of relief.
Johnson told the House Homeland Security Committee Tuesday that efforts are being made to break up smuggling rings and squelch the falsehoods promoted by smugglers that minors who make it over the border will receive "permisos," free passes. The administration plans to spend around $100 million in aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to help border-crossing minors to reintegrate and remain in those countries after the United States returns them there.
But that's not enough for Issa and other Republicans.
For instance, Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan told CNN:
“Instead of increasing funding we need to stop U.S. aid in the centrals,” Miller said. “I would say no more money from America until they step up to their own responsibilities and stop their citizens from migrating to the United States. … We need to whack our neighbors to make sure they understand they’re not going to be taking our money. We are not the ATM machine.”Whack our neighbors? That's often been the approach taken in Latin America by U.S policymakers, never with a good end. Miller's attitude, like Issa's, solves no problems.
What would do so is passing comprehensive immigration reform. Something better than what the Senate passed last year would be preferable. But even that proposal would be a big improvement. But it's much easier for Issa and Miller and others to point fingers at Obama instead of looking in the mirror.