Immigration

Jeff Sessions Poised to Be Trump's Avenger

Regardless of your views on illegal immigration, deporting Dreamers is simply vindictive.

This is home.

Photographer: Somodevilla/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen the U.S. Senate's most aggressive opponent of immigration, illegal and otherwise, to be the next U.S. attorney general. Senator Jeff Sessions tried to kill comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the Senate in 2013 with 68 votes.

You can come up with good reasons to oppose that reform. You can cite a commitment to an ironclad rule of law. You can cite all the international strivers waiting in an endless line to be allowed entry into the U.S. legally, and question why those who crossed the border without authorization should be given an unfair advantage. Regardless of what you think of those arguments, they have legitimate legal and moral foundations. They're not bunk.

But what about the Dreamers? That's a very specific class of undocumented immigrants. Dreamers came to the U.S. as children. They didn't break any laws; their parents did. Many of them have known no nation but the U.S. They are culturally American, English-speaking and, in many cases, with little or no memory of the countries they left behind.

President Barack Obama's 2012 executive action, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, stipulated that undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday, and who continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, would be eligible to be safeguarded from deportation and to apply for work permits. (A subsequent expansion of DACA was blocked and is tied up in legal actions.) More than 700,000 Dreamers have registered with the government to take advantage of the program.

Sessions has called Obama's immigration policy "open borders extremism," even though there are fewer undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today than when Obama took office in 2009. He has specifically described the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as an "unlawful assumption of power to violate plain law of the United States." 

Trump has vowed to rescind Obama's executive actions on immigration, and Sessions seems highly unlikely to dissuade him from that course. Dreamers will once again be subject to deportation. And Sessions has given every indication that he will pursue this policy with gusto.

As a cost-benefit matter, the U.S. has invested public resources in these young people. It has educated them. To deport them is to throw that investment down the drain.

As a moral matter, the U.S. will be punishing young people who did nothing wrong for the sake of vengeance against their parents, their ethnicity and their class. Obama's executive action precluded subsequent generations from benefiting from its provisions. It is not a precedent. Destroying the opportunities of more than 700,000 people serves no public policy purpose; nothing is gained by sending them away. It is purely cruel, vindictive and stupid.

That's why the treatment of the Dreamers will be the clearest indication of what kind of man was just elected president.  

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net

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