DACA will test checks, balances
President Donald Trump’s crusade against illegal immigration got a lot more real this week.
Iowa can and should play a key role in the debate over Trump’s plans to end federal protection for immigrants who entered the country as children. Thriving cultures embrace immigration, and Iowans have in the past. And, bluntly, a state with an aging population and a skilled labor shortage would be foolish not to.
Trump’s rejection of the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals program also has ignited a broader debate about federal authority that ought to excite advocates of limited government. State and local officials are testing the bounds of their limited sovereignty in an attempt to buck Trump’s policy.
Federal officials, by contrast, are responding in a predictably partisan manner.
Rep. Dave Loebsack, the only Iowa Democrat in Congress, quickly criticized the prospect of ending DACA. However, one has to wonder where Loebsack was for the past eight years, when a Democrat in the White House was carrying out more deportations than any president in U.S. history. (In full disclosure, I worked for Loebsack’s opponent in the 2016 election.)
Meanwhile, most of Iowa’s D.C. Republicans tried straddling the issue, saying DACA was executive overreach by President Barack Obama, but also suggesting those affected deserve legal status. Sen. Chuck Grassley said it may have been “well-intentioned,” but it should have come from the Congress.
Trump said on Twitter this week that he might “revisit” the issue, suggesting executive overreach indeed may be appropriate, but only if Congress is gridlocked.
Nothing coming out of Congress has cast much hope that meaningful immigration legislation can be passed in the six months before DACA ends.
Luckily, the radical libertarians who devised our form of government foresaw spats like these (although they probably would have mixed thoughts on this subject specifically). Our government is founded on the idea of separate powers — that each level of government would check the others.
As presidents sometimes do, Trump is putting our model to the test. The administration is finding state and local authorities are fighting to thwart any mass deportations.
Even though the federal government has grossly outgrown its constitutional limits, local government remains a powerful force in cases such as these. As one pertinent example, the U.S. has 65 federal agencies with law enforcement powers, but more than 17,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
If local authorities refuse to cooperate, it seems doubtful Trump can even top Obama’s record for deportations.
Some municipal governments, including Iowa City, and many schools already have signaled they won’t waste resources hunting down non-violent immigrants. And now, Attorney General Tom Miller and more than a dozen other attorneys general are suing the federal government over DACA.
Our republic has been heaved into a fierce battle over the role of government, and it’s going to get messy. Government usually does.
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