By Brett Linley
People can define a deal’s success in different ways. When it comes to the Senate acting on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), you could say there’s something for everyone. As Politico reports, the Senate has reached a tentative deal to keep so-called Dreamers (used to describe the many young illegal immigrants in America) from facing deportation.
While the bill allows Dreamers to stay, it also includes $2.7 billion in border security measures. Amongst other things, it includes $1.6 billion for Trump’s proposed border wall. As it would appear, Mexico will not be paying for the wall, after all.
There’s a lot of debate around the DACA program, implemented by President Obama via executive order. As many conservatives readily point out, Obama’s authority to pass DACA was questionable at best. What’s more, Trump is well within his authority to rescind it. That, however, is hardly the question at hand.
What’s actually relevant, in fact, is what to do with all of these young people now. Around 800,000 Dreamers are believed to reside within the US. No matter how you slice it, that would be a lot of people to uproot from the economy. Doing nothing is untenable, and kicking everyone out is equally unworkable. Thus, the Senate made a deal.
As comedian Larry David aptly put it, “A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied.” The Senate bill certainly meets that criteria. Just because we have a good compromise, though, doesn’t mean we have a good bill. This new bill may solve some problems now, but sets bad precedent and will likely leave everyone miserable.
Poor Tradeoffs All Around
Since it’s easy enough, lets start with the conservative side of things. It’s fairly clear why many conservative constituents will be left grumbling. Granting so-called amnesty, to any degree, is generally a non-starter. And what do they get in return? A border between us and Mexico that we have to pay for. If Mexico is truly a generator of criminals, drug mules, and rapists, you’d think our Wheeler-and-Dealer-in-Chief could get them to chip in for a decent wall.
Economic conservatism rightly preaches that taxes should be low. However, those low taxes can’t be sustained if we’re blowing billions of dollars on inefficient border security. That doesn’t even take into account how the government would necessarily have to employ eminent domain to force Texans off their land for the wall. It’s questionable whether any theoretical savings (if the economic consequences don’t cancel them out) would justify the costs.
For liberals, the tradeoffs are equally aggravating. Certainly, it’s a plus from the liberal perspective to allow all these young immigrants to stay. However, if you believe in free immigration, you’ll notice the poor precedent the bill enforces. As with past immigration negotiations, border security and naturalization find themselves tied together.
Just for perspective, this deal just pertains to the young immigrants that have essentially assimilated already. It doesn’t deal with any other immigrants contributing to the economy, past or present. Thus, what can free-immigration parties hope for in the future? Will there be another layer of wall added everytime we allow more immigrants in?
Of course, this is (mostly) in jest. Even so, libertarians that value freedom of movement across borders should be wary. As politicians use immigrants as pawns to satisfy their bases, it only sets the stage for worse policy down the road.
What’s to Be Done?
Sometimes, the best deal is the one that you don’t make. There still needs to be a deal, no question. With that said, a better one most certainly exists. Congress, not the executive branch, must address the question of Dreamers. If Republicans want to funnel billions of dollars on taxpayer money on a wall, so be it.
Certainly, this many terrible compromise bills have preceeded this one. However, there is no good reason to continue hobbling together policy in this way just for its own sake. If Dreamers are good for the economy (and data says they are), there’s no reason to tie their status to a wall. If they’re bad for the economy (they aren’t), it doesn’t make sense to do anything but let DACA expire.
Whatever way is best to settle the issue, one thing’s for sure: the Senate bill isn’t it.