Nicholas Harrington

Trump’s DACA Move to Ensure Continuation of His American Dream

It’s quite possible that Trump’s strategy concerning DACA and rescinding the Obama’s executive order has everything to do with the 2018 midterm elections.


On Monday, Donald Trump announced that he was rescinding the Obama-era executive order DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) that gave protection to the undocumented immigrants who had come (or been brought) to America as children.

It all gets quite confusing regarding nomenclature, what’s a law and what’s not. Basically, immigration reform was next to impossible in Congress with Republicans unable to form a consensus about border security and what to do with the 13 – 30 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. As a result, Barack Obama decided to use judicial discretion (afforded the president) to not pursue (i.e., deport) individuals that formed the class of people covered under DACA.

Since, Obama’s justice department was thereby under instructions not to follow immigration law with respect to childhood arrivals, he took the further step of providing these individuals (known colloquially as “Dreamers”) “right to work” paperwork and assured them of immunity from deportation (on a two-year renewable scheme). So, Trump isn’t really overturning a law since DACA was never passed by Congress (the body that makes laws). Trump has simply announced that the Justice Department will no longer consider Dreamers exempt from prosecution under existing U.S. immigration law.

… Well, that’s not even accurate. What Trump actually did was to say that he would rescind Obama’s executive order in six months and, in the meantime, Congress has an opportunity to codify something into law that would resolve the Dreamer issue once and for all … Pheeww! That’s some dry, legislative dirge right there.

Aaaaaanyway – while most of the commentary on Trump’s decision either pursues a narrative that he’s cold-hearted, appealing to his base with a racist dog whistle, or simply kicking the immigration reform can down the road by putting the onus on Congress to resolve the DACA question, something else might be at play – if you take a long-range view.

It’s quite possible that Trump’s strategy concerning DACA and rescinding Obama’s executive order has little to do with Dreamers and everything to do with the 2018 midterm elections. Putting the responsibility to do something meaningful with immigration reform, between now and mid-next-year, onto the Republicans in Congress is a diabolical “purity test.” These GOP lawmakers now have six months to prove to the base that they deserve their seat in Washington.


The fact that Steve Bannon is back heading Breitbart isn’t going to hurt any. You can be sure that Breitbart will have a steady stream of attack pieces levied against any congressperson or senator that votes for amnesty, DACA protection, or against funding for the border wall.


One of the central features of Trump’s demolition of his rivals in the 2016 primaries was the issue of immigration. Indeed, immigration is one of the defining features of his entire political existence. Trump successfully hung “soft on immigration” or “in favor of amnesty” (for illegal immigrants) around the neck of two of his most formidable primary opponents (Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush) and choked them out.

Now, Trump is going to perform the same maneuver on the entire Republican Congress. Either GOP lawmakers take a hard stand against DACA, agree to fund the wall, and increase ICE funding (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or they risk being primaried in the run up to the 2018 midterms. To be primaried means the GOP base will vote against the incumbent and nominate a pro-Trump candidate to run against the Democrat for that particular district (Representative) or state (Senator).

Now, some might wonder why Trump would want to throw this kind of grenade into his own party, risking a midterm bloodbath that might result in the Republicans losing control of both houses of Congress. It’s nothing other than a calculated risk. As it stands, a GOP-controlled Congress isn’t helping Trump’s agenda one iota. In fact, they frustrate it considerably. Trump really doesn’t have anything to lose and a whole lot to gain.

GOP lawmakers can see the future very clearly, so this strategy might have the desired effect simply as a threat. Republican congressional leaders might vote a hard line to avoid the midterm “nuclear option.” But, if not, Trump gets his base fired up and politically active and many more GOP midterm voters come out to primary the anti-Trump Republicans. The odds are that this will help against the Democrats in any case, since there are more agitated and fired up Republicans turning out to get their pro-Trump candidate into office. All in all, it’s a pretty savvy and aggressive strategy. It’s simply a continuation of the long running “drain the swamp” politicking by other means.

Indeed, the fact that Steve Bannon is back heading Breitbart isn’t going to hurt any. You can be sure that Breitbart will have a steady stream of attack pieces levied against any congressperson or senator that votes for amnesty, DACA protection, or against funding for the border wall. Breitbart will mark lawmakers for primary targeting, Trump will tweet about them, and the base will take care of the rest.

Sadly (although not at all surprisingly), 800,000 mostly Mexican immigrants (who arrived in the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own) are being used as a sword of Damocles over the heads of Republicans who Trump sees as soft on illegal immigration. Given the current political climate, that blade will cut, and the shape of the Congressional cadaver post-midterm could be decidedly more Trumpian.


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