Heartless and weak.
Few words better describe President Donald Trump's announcement Tuesday that would do away with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) created by executive order by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump's been all over the map on DACA, waffling between telling its recipients, colloquially dubbed "dreamers," not to worry. Weeks later, he's out on the stump blasting the program, seamlessly rolling it into the rank nativism that placates his base.
Trump's entire strategy exposes the weakness of a man whose persona is built on supposed machismo. The six-month delay for the program's end means he can, ultimately, make a patsy of Congress when more than 790,000 young people -- effectively Americans in every way but birth -- find themselves rounded up, jailed and hauled back to Central and South American countries they probably don't even remember. Trump didn't even have the guts to announce it himself on Tuesday. He sent out Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do his dirty work.
So much for the tough-guy image Trump likes to sell.
Illinois is home to more than 42,000 DACA recipients, according to data released this month by U.S. Department of Homeland Security. About 2,800 registered DACA recipients live in Iowa. Without congressional action, at best, they'll be forced back into the underground, a massive waste of talent and tax revenue. At worst, they'll become regular targets for immigration raids.
All available data points to DACA's sweeping success. These were people, brought to the U.S. as children who, by and large, worked under-the-table jobs, couldn't attend even community college and were forced to live in the shadows. More than 91 percent of DACA recipients are either gainfully employed and paying taxes or enrolled in college.
They're functioning parts of the social fabric. Now often in their early 30s, thousands of DACA recipients started families. They started businesses. They pay taxes. They participate in society to everyone's benefit. And, come March, their willingness to register for DACA and provide personal information -- to play by the rules -- is likely to be used as a weapon against them. It's the ultimate betrayal.
Tuesday's move was a political ploy with very human costs. Republicans across the spectrum begged the president to avoid it. House Speaker Paul Ryan publicly asked the president to leave DACA be. But Trump, facing an eroding base, opted Tuesday to use people -- our neighbors -- as political pawns.
Almost never in the U.S. are families, especially children, blamed for the sins and crimes of their parents. Such multi-generational punitive action is a shameful relic of the Dark Ages.
Trump's demand for congressional action is a dodge, plain and simple. For years, Congress has bickered about immigration reform. It proved a near-impossible lift even during less noxious times. Demanding congressional action in the midst of an emergent right-wing is downright laughable. It's even more unlikely when Congress entered the fall session Tuesday with tax reform, disaster relief, the debt ceiling and the federal budget on its plate.
Ultimately, yes, it would be best for Congress to finally grapple with the immigration problem that's dogged Republican politics for more than 30 years. It would be preferable for a legal solution outside of the executive order process. But, make no mistake, Trump's move on Tuesday happened just because it would have been bad optics for his administration to defend DACA in court. Doing so would have eroded further the segment of his base that gets offended when they hear someone speaking Spanish at the super market. It was the action of a weak president cornered by his own nasty brand of political bombast.
Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with the "rule of law." Such a claim is laughable from an administration that last month pardoned renegade Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Congress must act now. A failure to do so would display a shameless, inhuman lack of courage. Congressional action on immigration, would, no doubt, give Trump an opening to claim a much-needed victory. But the task facing lawmakers is probably insurmountable.
On Tuesday, President Trump opted to threaten vital human capital and make a scapegoat out of Congress for the sake of politics. It was the action of a man who would rather shrink than grapple seriously with the issues before him.