TEXAS VIEW: Get to work, Congress. DACA has to go, but young migrants should be allowed to stay

A federal judge has once again issued the legally correct ruling on the Obama-era program that lets young immigrants remain in the United States. Now, it should lead to the right policy result.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, was an effort to shape policy outside of congressional purview. It was executive overreach, and it has survived for years because of drawn-out court battles and the Trump administration’s fumbled effort to repeal it. Federal Judge Andrew Hanen, a Texas appointee of President George W. Bush, struck down the program in a ruling issued Wednesday, Sept. 13. But he is letting it continue for current enrollees, a nod to the fact that the Supreme Court will probably have the ultimate say.

The idea behind DACA is solid: Those brought to the country illegally by their parents, at an age so young that they remember no other home, need a path to legal status and eventually citizenship. Congress’ ongoing failure has hurt them, and the vast majority who have gone to American schools, work American jobs and build American families deserve to officially wear their country’s name. We’re talking about more than 580,000 people, including nearly 96,000 in Texas.

So, why not just leave the order, which President Joe Biden backs, in place? Because it’s a standing monument to the constant creep of executive authority. Legislation is not written in the executive branch, but too many politicians are testing the bounds.

It’s a bipartisan effort. President Donald Trump issues sweeping orders on issues such as immigration and COVID policies. Biden has had several policy reaches knocked down by the courts, on topics from workplace vaccine mandates to student debt cancellation. Governors are getting in on the act; New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, recently decided that gun-carrying rights were suspended in part of her state, a constitutional affront so brazen that even her party’s staunchest gun-control advocates said she was wrong.

If the executive recedes, Congress must step forward. Yes, the Senate and House are frequently dysfunctional. For decades, they’ve eagerly ceded tough decision-making — and thus political culpability — to the executive branch.

That lets political wounds fester, and that’s more true on immigration than on perhaps any other issue. For decades, a failure to secure borders, set out firm asylum policies and craft rules for ordinary and beneficial movement of workers has allowed for a constant escalation of anger on the issue.

Some bold lawmakers have tried to find sweeping solutions. Instead, a series of steps that build trust and compromise are in order. The “Dreamers,” as the young immigrants are known, should be a source of common ground. We hope Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who is no dove on this issue but understands change needs to come, will lead the way.

We’re not naive about the political environment, particularly as the 2024 presidential election nears. Don’t expect any movement soon. But if DACA does disappear, we hope that it can spur movement to a sensible path.

After all, voters are increasingly frustrated with chaos at the border. And the national debate has heated up now that blue-state mayors and governors are feeling the brunt of migrants arriving with bus tickets courtesy of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Voters will demand action, and if they don’t get sensible policy that works, they may turn to darker alternatives. The Republican presidential campaign has featured noxious ideas about immigration — specifically, Donald Trump and his emulator, Vivek Ramaswamy, pledging to reverse the longstanding legal notion that anyone born on U.S. soil is born an American citizen.

This attack on “birthright citizenship” is an affront to the ideals that have, for centuries, allowed the U.S. to grow both in numbers and in strength. These candidates feed the beast of executive overreach, saying they see a way to change this longstanding policy through presidential action alone.

Republicans should reject both the underlying proposal and the strongman technique. If there’s a problem with illegal immigration — and of course there is — fix it. Don’t take it out on children and commit them to a life in limbo in the only country they’ve known.

That’s how we got DACA. If Congress does its job, we can avoid a repeat and have more useful and humane immigration policies once and for all.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram