Editorial Board

Trump's Dreamer Deal-Breaker

Turning 800,000 of the U.S.'s most productive young people into bargaining chips is a terrible idea.

An easy call.

Photographer: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has issued his "priorities" for immigration legislation. It's a mixed bag that deserves a full debate in Congress. But 800,000 of America's most productive young people should not be used as bargaining chips in that debate.

QuickTake The Debate over Dreamers

It's unfortunate, though not surprising, that the president has reneged on an informal agreement with Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi to protect the so-called Dreamers, whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children. At a White House meeting last month, the three apparently agreed to deal with the Dreamers separately, without entangling them in the debate over broader immigration issues such as funding for a border wall.

The moral and economic cases for granting the Dreamers the right to remain in the U.S. are clear and compelling. They are American in every sense but legal, and the U.S. has already invested in their education and upbringing. Why kick them out now, to countries many of them don't even know, when they are poised to contribute to the U.S.?

Worse yet would be linking their fate to the passage of measures that are a mix of ignoble and ineffective. Full construction of a border wall, for instance, would be a costly boondoggle. Plans to cut the number of U.S.-bound refugees to historic lows during a global refugee crisis likewise rest on false premises: Refugees go through stringent vetting, with little evidence of "fraud" in the program. Arguing that it's cheaper to resettle refugees nearer to their homes also ignores their dire humanitarian needs -- precisely why they are selected for resettlement in the U.S. and other developed nations.

Such legislative preconditions, even if not backed by the threat of a presidential veto, will inflame any progress on more pressing needs that Trump rightly includes in his list of priorities: a merit-based immigration system, clearing up immigration courts' backlog, reducing the number of those who overstay their visas, and implementing the E-Verify system to discourage employment of undocumented workers.

Trump still has time to reconsider his strategy and avoid another legislative defeat. Supporting passage of the clean Dream Act of 2017, which has already been introduced, would not only give him his first real legislative achievement. It would also give the national debate over comprehensive immigration reform the respect and attention it deserves.

    --Editors: James Gibney, Michael Newman.

    To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net .

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