Our Fight’s With the President, Not DREAMers | Commentary

Posted January 14, 2015 at 9:39am

In November, President Barack Obama unveiled one of the most sweeping Executive Orders in American history. Ignoring for a moment the merits of the immigration policy itself, such actions cannot be condoned by the American body politic. Unilateral action defies the separation of powers on which our country was founded, and on which our federalist democracy is sustained. Imagine a future president refusing to enforce drug laws, environmental laws, criminal penalties for sexual assault or tax collection for important constituencies.

My colleagues in both chambers of Congress rightfully feel the moral necessity of responding to such unaccountable overreach from this president. His actions were purely political and designed to drive a wedge between burgeoning minority communities and a center right country which prefers its government focus on economic issues and growing a stagnant economy.

We must respond to the president’s assault on the democratic process by exercising our constitutional powers. Toward this end, this week the House will consider a bill appropriating funds for the Department of Homeland Security. These funds are necessary to keep our nation safe from terrorism, enable us to respond to natural disasters and strengthen the security of our borders. The efforts of the DHS protect Americans lives on a daily basis and strengthen state and local law enforcement efforts, and I fully support the DHS funding bill that has been proposed.

However, I am concerned that Congress will overreach in taking action against a large swath of individuals in our communities who should be protected. Some of my colleagues insist on a series of amendments designed specifically to penalize a class of immigrants who never elected to break our laws in the first place.

I have voted repeatedly in Congress to protect children who were brought into this country by their parents or guardians through no fault of their own. The current Administration began allowing this group of individuals (popularly called DREAMers) to apply for deferred action for childhood arrivals status (DACA) in 2012. Shielding young people from deportation, most of whom were brought to this country at a very young age and have gone to school and worked alongside our children, is the right thing to do. Most Americans and their members of Congress agree. Had the president worked with Congress then on a legislative solution, we would not be having this debate today.

In order to obtain the DACA paperwork and receive recognition by DHS, the DREAMers have passed background checks, have clean criminal records, earned high school and college degrees, and have worked towards achieving the American dream. DREAMers are contributing members of our society.

Some of the proposed amendments to the DHS funding bill would prohibit DHS from renewing DACA applications, and will subject our DREAMers to deportation, pulling them from their jobs, colleges, and families. Where would they go? Many know no other country to call home. The same federal government that told children as young as four and five years old to come forward will then turn around three years later and deport these young people to countries they have never known.

While I didn’t support the president’s choice to act unilaterally in 2012, this singular group has unfortunately become the scapegoat for my colleagues’ attempt to rectify President Obama’s egregious actions against democracy. I regret the insistence of making this class of immigrants pay for the President’s wrongful acts. President Obama made his decision personally and with full mental assent. Our DREAMers, in being pulled across our border, did neither.

We find ourselves in a policy and political situation created by the president. This was the clear intention of these executive orders: to bait congressional Republicans to overreact and thus securing for the future the electoral gratitude of minority communities. We must resist using DREAMers to “show” the president that he cannot act unrestrained, and instead of tying amendments to penalize individual groups, we should be voting to suspend funds for his November actions alone.

As conservative columnist Byron York noted this week, my colleagues are right to take aim at Obama’s Nov. 21 executive order. It is one of the most expansive executive orders in American history, and if left unchallenged, would expand the power of the executive in a way that may never be reversed. It is here that our focus must remain; not on innocent children. It is inhumane and unfitting for our generous national history as an immigrant nation to consider legislation that would endanger their legal status. Moreover, this effort will fail.

I hope my colleagues will see the error in making scapegoats of children brought across the border by others in an attempt to make the President pay for his sins against the American electorate.

Rep. Jeff Denham is a Republican representing California’s 10th District, located in the Central Valley, since 2011.