President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for children of immigrants roiled the national and Iowa political scene Tuesday. Children brought to the country by their parents who have lived most of their lives in America worried what their futures held, with a final decision on how DACA may or may not end now resting with Congress. Close to 6,000 Iowans fall under DACA protection and could face deportation depending on the outcome.
The six-month delay in enacting the change gives supporters of DACA time to organize and pressure their members of Congress to save the program. Several hundred people rallied today at Senator Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley’s office, both inside and outside of the federal building in downtown Des Moines. Most of Iowa’s party leaders and elected officials weighed in on Trump’s decision. Here’s how they broke down:
Immigrant rights organizations, Democrats and major businesses quickly denounced Trump’s actions, pointing to DACA members’ impact on the economy and their love for the country.
“There are thousands of DACA recipients in the state of Iowa,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price said in a press release. “Children who came here with their parents, who grew up here, and who call Iowa home. These children are part of our communities. They were told they could stay and continue to build their lives here, but now, Donald Trump is playing political games with their lives.”
Many staffers from the Iowa Democratic Party and labor unions showed up to participate in the pro-DACA rally outside of the senators’ office. Gubernatorial candidates John Norris and Jonathan Neiderbach joined in as well. Dozens of activists are staging a sit-in at Ernst’s office throughout the day.
Wells Fargo, a major employer in Iowa, also came out in opposition to Trump’s actions.
“Wells Fargo believes young, undocumented immigrants brought to America as children should have the opportunity to stay,” a spokesperson for the company said.
It wouldn’t be a national discussion about immigration without some sort of weird, insensitive tweet from Steve King.
Former #DACA's will make great "Peace Corp" volunteers in home countries. None would take more hardship or risk than we ask of Peace Corp.
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) September 5, 2017
There’s quite a few obvious problems with that statement, not the least that Peace Corp members voluntarily travel to another country and, you know, get to come back home afterward. King would prefer Trump simply rescind DACA outright so that there’s no chance of Congress finding a way to protect children of those immigrants. He’ll be a big problem for House Republicans who want to come up with some sort of mitigating solution.
Most Iowa Republicans simply tried to side-step the very real consequences of Trump’s announcement. Both Congressmen Rod Blum and David Young turned to the process side of the matter. Young didn’t even address whether he agreed or disagreed with Trump’s decision to end DACA.
“America is not about one color, one ethnicity or one faith,” Young said in a statement. “America is a compassionate nation built on the foundation of self-government, the rule of law, freedom, and the liberties and rights given in our Constitution. President Obama acknowledged his limited Constitutional authority with his executive order creating DACA. It is now up to Congress to address this matter and other issues related to immigration – from enforcement to employment practices to securing our borders. These are the powers afforded to Congress, not the President, by the Constitution.”
Blum at least weighed in on Trump’s move, but also just made a vague statement on Congress addressing the matter through legislation without indicating what he thought that should look like.
“I believe the decision President Obama made to implement the program on DACA was unconstitutional, and I agree with President Trump’s decision to return power to Congress to write, debate and vote on legislation,” Blum told the Des Moines Register.
Senator Chuck Grassley criticized the original executive order process that President Barack Obama used to bring DACA into law, and urged Congress to come up with a compromise. But he also encouraged the Trump Administration to not target former DACA recipients for deportation, even though it’s very likely that’s exactly what Trump will do if all this moves forward.
“Any legislative solution is going to have to be a compromise that addresses the status of those who have been unlawfully brought to this country and upholds the rule of law,” Grassley said in a statement. “President Trump should continue to work with Congress to pass reforms through the legislative process that encourage lawful immigration. In the meantime, I expect that the Administration’s immigration enforcement priorities will continue to target the thousands of criminals ahead of those who have otherwise abided by our laws.”
Senator Joni Ernst also tried to have it both ways, urging “compassion” for undocumented children, while at the same time arguing they should not receive citizenship, and thus essentially stay in the shadows.
“America has been and always will be a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws,” Ernst said in a statement. “However, many young undocumented children were brought here by parents, caretakers, and so forth through no fault of their own. As I have stated many times before, we must show compassion toward these children. While I do not support giving them citizenship, we must identify and pursue a measured approach that addresses their unique situation, but also respects the importance of our immigration laws and discourages future illegal immigration.”
That statement is simply all over the place, trying to please people on every side of the issue and making it unclear what legislation she would actually pursue. Ending DACA without implementing any alternative path to citizenship for those immigrants would mean they’d find it very difficult to find jobs anywhere. Most of these positions put out by Iowa Republicans today probably signal that will skew to the much-less-than-compassionate side of the debate moving forward as Congress deals with DACA, all while trying to portray themselves as reasonable and kind to immigrants.
by Pat Rynard