The Trump administration recently announced that they are considering scrapping an Obama-era immigration policy. The announcement, however, is causing divides inside the Republican Party, as former presidential candidates demand we legislate with our hearts and not our heads.
According to Breitbart, defeated presidential candidate Jeb Bush is pleading with President Trump to defend the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) enacted by former President Obama in 2012.
“Come to DACA’s defense, Mr. Trump,” Jeb Bush tweeted. “With Presidential leadership, this can be resolved.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump denounced DACA as unconstitutional and vowed to scrap the immigration policy immediately upon taking office, according to Fox News.
Former President Obama forced DACA through, despite objections from Congress and concerns about the constitutionality of the motion. The president does not have the constitutional authority to set immigration policy; it is a power granted to Congress.
Former President Obama even admitted to the unconstitutionality of his actions in 2011. Before he pushed DACA through, Obama explained, “With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.”
However, through some tricky legal maneuvering, the Obama administration found a loophole allowing them to usurp congressional authority. DACA, they claimed, was not a new immigration policy. Instead, DACA rendered 750,000 unlawful immigrants, who came to America as children, low-priority in terms of deportation. Immigration officials were ordered to only deport DACA designees if they had committed multiple crimes.
In his tweet to President Trump, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush shared a link to a Miami Herald editorial articulating the reasons why President Trump should extend the DACA program. The Miami Herald piece argues that President Trump should extend DACA because it is good for the economy and because it is good for the heart.
However, this argument ignores the important moral issue of rewarding criminal behavior. The editorial explains that unlawful immigrants are a net benefit to the economy as if economic concerns were the sole consideration. The American economy would be greatly improved if US Navy vessels engaged in piracy during their downtime, yet that would be morally reprehensible.
Instead, the concern from President Trump and his supporters is that we are rewarding criminal behavior at the expense of legal immigration. As you would expect, illegal immigration skyrocketed after former President Obama pushed DACA through. More unaccompanied minors are making the harrowing journey across the US border than ever before. In 2014, two years after DACA, Border Patrol agents were apprehending ten times more unaccompanied minors than in previous years, according to The Hill.
The DACA issue is one that can tug at the heartstrings of many Americans; no one wants to uproot those who have only known life in the United States. Is it fair for people like Jeb Bush to invoke empathy into this hard governmental decision?
Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale University, explains that the defense of the DACA immigration policy is the result of too much empathy in politics. Bloom argues that focusing on individual unlawful immigrants, “causes us to lose sight of larger tragedies.” As a result, empathetic politicians introduce feel-good policy that ultimately renders the very people they are attempting to protect worse off.
In the end, government is supposed to operate under the rule of law. It is not supposed to infuse empathy into that rule of law. As John Adams said, “We are a nation of laws, not of men.”