By Daniel Garza
For nearly 30 years, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to lead on immigration. As a result, the executive and judicial branches have stepped in to fill the vacuum.
That is not how our system is supposed to work. And the time to fix this is now.
Some may think this is a fool’s errand in today’s politically charged environment and a midterm election nearing. But we have been telling ourselves some version of this lie for over three decades.
No one is saying that writing a bill and getting it to the president’s desk will be easy. And no one is saying that one bill would solve everything that’s wrong with our broken immigration system. But just a few weeks ago, a compromise was advanced that would offer a path to citizenship for approximately 1.8 million Dreamers, coupled with funding for enhanced border security. It was far from comprehensive, but it was a positive step that could lay the groundwork for future legislation.
Lawmakers should not just throw up their hands when we are so close and the future of millions of people are at stake. There are many reasons to do this, not least of which is providing certainty to a large group of Americans who deserve certainty as they lead their lives in the only country they know, but also because Congress is the lawmaking branch. And unless Congress asserts itself in the process, the other branches will continue making up immigration policy piece meal.
We see it play out every time a lawsuit is brought challenging some executive branch action on immigration. Depending on the ruling from the court, some cheer while others jeer.
There is no better example of this phenomenon than the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This is the program unilaterally created and implemented by President Barack Obama, which provides temporary protection to the Dreamers, people brought to the United States as children, through no fault of their own.
Rather than work with Congress, President Barack Obama created this program even though his party controlled both chambers of Congress during his first two years in office and he had said repeatedly that he lacked the constitutional authority to bypass Congress.
But as we know, President Obama would change his tune. But the courts eventually proved that the former president’s instincts were right about his lack of constitutional authority.
Last year, President Donald Trump undid Obama’s unilateral actions while echoing Obama’s call for Congress to come up with a solution. Congress hasn’t. So now we have another set of lawsuits challenging Trump’s decision to undo Obama’s decision.
Are you still with me?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Congress could reassert itself and inject new life into the constitutional principle of three coequal branches underpinning our government by doing its job.
The good news for Congress is that just about everyone agrees that Dreamers should be allowed to legally remain in the U.S. One poll found nearly 90 percent support Congress reaching an agreement on the status of our Dreamer population. Support is also strong among conservative and Republican voters, with 80 percent in support of an agreement that would provide an eventual path to citizenship and billions of dollars to enhance security along our border.
And why not? The Dreamers represent some of our best and brightest—as students, teachers, workers, and brave men and women in our military putting their lives on the lines to defend our freedoms. But without the certainty to plan their lives and futures, Dreamers are unable to fully contribute to our communities.
As president of The LIBRE Initiative, an organization dedicated to working with the Hispanic community, I have met hundreds of Dreamers. I have been impressed by their poise and resiliency in the face of so much uncertainty. They have personally told me how they want to use their God-given talents to make our country an even better place to live.
It would be wrong for us to turn our backs on these young men and women who have already become contributing members of society, and who know no other country than this one as their home.
Congress can break through the gridlock by sending a bill to the president’s desk. The solution is at hand. What are they waiting for?
Daniel Garza is the president of The LIBRE Initiative.