I once used the term "spoiled brats" to describe "dreamers," those young undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents who demand special accommodations such as the deferred action program that President Obama unveiled in 2012. They're spoiled because they get seats in the lifeboat and tons of positive media attention.
Yet now I think the real spoiled brats are those House Republicans who -- with no skill for leading the downtrodden -- settle for punishing the defenseless. The lawmakers resemble the petulant child who loses a ballgame and then storms into the house and kicks the dog. Having lost the debate, GOP lawmakers recently went to the House floor and kicked the "dreamers."
In a vote that was purely symbolic because the Senate had adjourned, and because Obama had threatened a veto, 212 Republicans joined with four Democrats to pass a spiteful and unnecessary measure demanding an end to a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Under the program, eligible young people can apply for a work permit and a two-year reprieve from deportation. The GOP lawmakers launched their gratuitous attack on DACA under the pretext of dealing with the border crisis involving thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America.
That's rubbish. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. You don't stop more children from coming to the United States by punishing teenagers and 20-somethings who are already here, and who have been here most of their lives.
If House Republicans were looking for reasons to challenge DACA, I could have provided a list. The program is imperfect.
To start with, DACA was quickly cut and pasted and not thought out, as immigration attorneys would learn. The implementation was sloppy, and "dreamers" were slow to sign up. Some of those encouraged to apply for the temporary deferment were actually eligible for permanent legal status.
The emphasis was on politics over policy. One of the main reasons Obama unveiled DACA in June 2012 was because, two months earlier, it was widely reported that Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was working on a GOP bill that would have offered permanent legal status to the same group. The White House beat him to the punch.
Also, the mechanics are dubious. Applicants turn themselves into authorities, get fingerprinted, create a file with personal information including home addresses -- all for a temporary fix to a complicated problem. Despite what some claim, DACA isn't an executive order but simply a policy change at the Department of Homeland Security. This means it can be easily undone by this administration or the next one.
Lastly, the program is elitist and unfair. It gives special treatment to students but not their parents and younger siblings.
But DACA didn't cause the border crisis.
Republicans think the program is the bureaucratic equivalent of a pied piper that, just since October 2013, has lured at least 57,000 child refugees from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
This is a fairy tale concocted by opportunistic politicians who despise DACA because they fear it produces future Latino Democrats.
Do you know what produces future Latino Democrats? Present-day Republicans, with their gift for angering Latinos.
The GOP's arguments connecting DACA with the arrival of the child refugees quickly fell apart. To start with, it is now known the administration first became aware of an unexpected surge in minors from Central America coming across the border as early as 2011, and DACA didn't start until August 2012. Also, the refugee kids don't meet the cutoff date to be eligible for the program. Conservatives insist that these children from Central America know every detail about DACA. But the kids somehow missed the fine print about how the program is not for them?
House Republicans are afraid of DACA. Yet they don't have the courage to state their true intentions. By blaming it for the border crisis, they're hiding behind a cloak of lies and false assumptions.
The issue here isn't border security. It's the Republicans' insecurity -- that if DACA recipients are eventually given citizenship and the right to cast ballots, the GOP will never be in a position to compete for those voters.
That's true. And, thanks to their antics, it's becoming truer all the time.
Ruben Navarrette's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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