By The Dallas Morning News
Give Donald Trump this, he never fails to find a little gasoline to toss on a smoldering flame.
We speak, of course, of the president of the United States’ decision on Easter Sunday to enflame the immigration debate by taking shots at Mexico, NAFTA and DACA, among other things. If those shots were simply incendiary, at least the president would have the facts on his side. But at best his comments also inaccurately conflated details about illegal immigration, thus needlessly burning away even the smallest levels of trust essential for legislative solutions.
Before delving into the murky waters of the president’s tweet history, let’s consider a few objective details. DACA (or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was created by President Barack Obama in 2012. It covers approximately 700,000 people, 124,000 of whom are Texans. The program is limited to people who arrived as children (younger than 16) before June 15, 2007. Anyone who has crossed the border since is not eligible.
In the past the president has suggested that no one wants these immigrants to stay in this country more than him. He tweeted last year, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!”
And here, he is onto something. Polls show that nearly 90 percent of Americans believe that DACA immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country.
Nonetheless, last year Trump upended DACA, scheduling an end to the program unless Congress passes a legislative fix. He was able to do that because Obama created the program through executive order. And this weekend, Trump upped the ante with a series of tweets saying that Democrats destroyed the chance at any “deal” on DACA, suggesting he might withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA unless Mexico does more on border security, and reiterating his call for building “the wall.”
Mind you, all of this came out of the blue. These Easter tweets weren’t driven by any recent action by Democrats or, for that matter, anyone else in Washington. Immigration is always a smoldering issue, but wasn’t just now an open flame. Now that flame is singeing relations with our southern neighbor amid sensitive trade negotiations and giving Democrats even less reason in this election year to cut a deal.
We’ve long expressed concern over creating DACA through executive order, something that can be undone with the stroke of a pen. But we are starting to wonder if Obama’s move ended up outfoxing The Donald. DACA is the one corner of the immigration debate where there is bipartisan agreement and therefore room for a deal.
That Trump never seems to get past DACA — even in an election year — means the immigration debate is always about the immigrants Americans express the most support for.