With Donald Trump’s wild rantings of the superior negotiating skills of the Mexican government, and his idea that all undocumented immigrants are criminals (neither of which has any basis in fact, but hey, its a presidential campaign, facts are not relevant), there has been a lot of attention paid to the Obama Administration’s DACA and DAPA programs. The DACA program has been an unqualified success for those 50% or so of eligible people who have signed up for it, has created opportunity for those individuals, and has even filled government coffers at the local, state and federal level. The DAPA program is only hold because 26 GOP controlled states decided they did not want undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to have work permits and to be safe from deportation for two years (not including, of course, the millions who do not qualify for the program). From a politically conservative point of view, it is an untenable position for at least three reasons.
The definition of a conservative “is someone who rises above his personal self-interest and promotes moral and economic values beneficial to all.” Well, if that is the definition, then let’s look at it in the context of DAPA. What are “the moral and economic values beneficial to all” that flow from DAPA?
First, there is the most obvious reason–economics. Someone who has been living in the shadows, perhaps working with no papers and paid in cash, or working with fake papers and getting paid and paying taxes and for social security they will never see, is now in the light of day, working without fear of deportation (for at least two years). There is no permanent benefit that comes from DAPA, nor does such a person have “lawful status.” It is quite obvious that such a person will now be more fully engaged in the “daylight’ economy; purchasing cars, paying taxes, saving money, and generally becoming a more integrated member of society. Without a doubt, there is great economic value in this. Remember, the vast majority of these folks are already working in jobs; getting work permits will formalize this, not take jobs from Americans. Basic economics also tells that that more people making more money means more money will be spent, more taxes will be collected, and more jobs will be created.
Second, individuals who apply for DAPA will be, in effect, self-reporting to the USCIS (the benefits side of immigration within DHS), and in turn vetted through the systems and background checks of ICE (the enforcement side of immigration). Everyone who applies for DAPA knows it would be for two years, with extensions dependent on a sitting President. The Democratic candidates have all said they would continue or expand DAPA, and the GOP candidates have all said they would eliminate it. Essentially, DAPA means that 4to 5 million people who are currently deportable, typically for either entering the U.S. illegally, or overstaying a visa (not a crime), will freely give their names, addresses, fingerprints and other personal data to the DHS. Obviously, that means 4-5 million fewer people for the officer and agents at ICE to look through to find those they actually need to and deport within their allocated budget from Congress. The program is fiscally sound, self-funded by the participants (as Ted Cruz learned), and should it be cancelled, and should Congress allocate $400-600 billion dollars to remove everyone, it would be mean that 4 to 5 million people would be easier to find.
Third, the DAPA recipients are all parents of U.S. Citizens or permanent residents. That means that all of them, yes, all of them, are either currently eligible for permanent residence, or will be when their child is 21 and a U.S. citizen. The only thing stopping the vast majority of them from applying for permanent residence when their child is eligible to sponsor, is the law created by Congress in 1996 which says that if you entered the US illegally you cannot get a green card here, and must go home for 10 years before returning. By receiving DAPA, you are keeping families together (morally right), and you ensuring that the parents are able to provide for their US citizen children (economically beneficial). reducing poverty and claims for government services for the children. If you really want to focus on deportation, then deporting the parents of U.S. citizens who have no criminal record and who’s only crime MAY be a misdemeanor illegal entry, then perhaps morally and economically, is not the best place to start.
There are other conservative reasons for supporting DAPA. Most of those are biblically related, and I will leave those for another post. Suffice it to say that DAPA should not have been necessary. Conservatives in Congress should have argued for a strong enforcement and security based plan that would have also strongly encouraged folks to come out of the shadows. But the House GOP refused to even consider any immigration reform package, forcing Obama to create DAPA. Real conservatives would actually create a program that works better for America and for Immigrants, but it appears that there are very few real conservatives in Congress. And, THAT will cost the GOP and conservatives the next presidential election.