Capitol Journal: Trump and Congress agreeing on a deal to replace DACA? Let’s hope that dream becomes a reality

DACA supporters gather at the intersection of Temple and Spring streets in downtown Los Angeles.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The Trump administration’s dumping cold water on “Dreamers” was so wrongheaded, so self-defeating and so inhumane that it can’t possibly stand. Can it?

You’d think a mean move like placing 800,000 inspiring, struggling young people in danger of deportation would galvanize Congress into finally passing compromise immigration reform.

But this Congress and the president have shown no ability or inclination to work together and accomplish anything substantive.


And if that’s true on a compelling issue with such sympathetic victims as this, exactly what are they capable of achieving? Seemingly nothing.

But hold on! I’m an optimist here. Maybe it’s because we’re on the opposite side of the continent from the brawling Beltway, but I can envision President Trump eventually working out a deal with sensible Republicans and tactically muted Democrats, even as hardline, anti-immigrant conservatives protest and pout.

There was one bright sign of cooperation Wednesday. Trump and Democratic congressional leaders agreed to extend the nation’s borrowing limit and keep government open until at least mid-December, avoiding a fiscal crisis and possible national economic blow this month. Republicans objected to giving Democrats that much power over the congressional agenda.

The national debt limit is important, but run-of-the-mill Washington politics. It’s hardly gripping like the heart-rending image of young people who were brought into this country illegally as children by their parents and succeeded in school and work, only to be forcibly removed to a country they’ve never known — during an election year, no less.

“They are amazing because they’re smart, passionate and resilient,” Sonoma State University President Judy K. Sakaki told me, referring to the nearly 200 undocumented students on her campus, where the total enrollment is less than 10,000. “They work harder than anyone you know, really.”

She mentioned one female student who is pursuing a doctorate in chemistry and has a goal of helping other undocumented students to succeed. A male with “a bright, bright mind” is headed to medical school.

“They’re inspirational. And you think about what they’ve gone through to get where they are, taking care of younger siblings, working several jobs, maintaining strong grades. And to think we would have the audacity not to support them.”

California lawmakers defend DACA with an eye on lawsuit against Trump’s action>>

Sakaki is part of the American dream herself. She was a first-generation college student whose grandparents migrated here from Japan for a better life in the late 1920s. They were thrust into internment camps with her parents during World War II.

Barbara O’Connor, a retired communications professor who headed a politics and media institute at Sacramento State University, said: “I came in contact with over 100 undocumented kids. They worked hard, were motivated and were all gainfully employed. They didn’t speak English as well, but they kicked butt. They studied harder than the other kids. Why would you not want that?”

The Democrat added: “Give Trump credit. He’s trying to do it the right way” by asking Congress to act.

Trump gave Congress six months to pass a law replacing former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. Obama did that on his own without Congress. Trump and Republicans called it unconstitutional.

Even Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said Tuesday that DACA is “on shaky legal ground…. That’s why we need to pass a law and we should do it.”

If Congress doesn’t act, DACA will die, based on the administration’s initial announcement. But later the president tweeted that if Congress couldn’t perform, he “will revisit the issue.” I’ll regard that as another hopeful sign — Trump perhaps realizing that dashing young people’s dreams diminishes America rather than making it “great again.”

Updates from Sacramento »

Trump — unlike President Reagan, for example — doesn’t seem to have any deep, guiding philosophy except to do what’s best for him, politically and personally. He may see that picking on young people who have done exactly what America has asked of them — work hard, get educated, obey the law — is a political loser. It certainly does nothing to expand his political base, polls show.

The true believer — the real heavy to DACA supporters — is U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, a former Alabama senator and career-long basher of illegal immigration. He seemed to relish making the DACA dumping announcement in Trump’s place.

Trump’s DACA decision could have a sweeping effect on who controls the House in 2018, especially in California>>

Sessions’ contention that expelling DACA immigrants will help the economy by raising wages and providing jobs for American citizens was widely disputed as baloney. It’s just the opposite. These are exactly the kind of smart, ambitious, skilled young adults America needs to help replace its aging baby boomers and, for example, pay taxes into the retirees’ Social Security and Medicare systems.

California has by far the largest number of DACA immigrants, roughly 223,000.

A political positive was that I didn’t see one public statement from a California Republican politician backing Trump’s threatened scuttling of these people’s protections. Some Republican members of Congress and the Legislature advocated keeping them.

“The president has rescinded an unconstitutional executive order” from Obama that Trump had promised to reverse, state Senate Republican leader Patricia Bates of Laguna Niguel said. “Now the real work must begin.

“It is imperative that Congress pass a lasting legislative solution that will ensure that 800,000 young people, who have done nothing wrong, can continue to pursue their educations, careers and contributions to our great nation. This will only happen with bipartisan leadership from Congress and the president.”

I’ll dream it becomes a reality. If it doesn’t, it’ll be the Republicans’ nightmare.

Follow @LATimesSkelton on Twitter


California lawmakers defend DACA with an eye on lawsuit against Trump’s action

Trump’s DACA decision could have a sweeping effect on who controls the House in 2018, especially in California

Ignore the critics. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is outperforming many half her age, with old-fashioned civility