Ruben Navarrette: The Supreme Court spared DACA for now. But was it even worth saving?

Summary: Meanwhile, the young people trapped in this game think that Obama did them a favor by letting them put their head into the lion's mouth, and that the Democratic Party is their friend and champion.

Ruben Navarrette column
Ruben Navarrette commentary
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SAN DIEGO โ€” If those on the left are going to support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as a way to help Dreamers, they should at least take a moment to try to understand why โ€” far from being a display of compassion โ€” DACA is actually an act of cruelty.

They also won't find much compassion in a recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision that blocked an attempt to do away with the program.

The swing vote was Chief Justice John Roberts, who acknowledged that the Trump administration had the power to use its executive authority to end a program that was, after all, created by the executive authority of the Obama administration. What bothered Roberts was that Trump didn't end the program in the right way by considering alternatives and weighing the harm to participants.

The Tweeter-In-Chief caught that. After the ruling, Trump wrote on Twitter: "The DACA decision, while a highly political one, and seemingly not based on the law, gives the President of the United States far more power than EVER anticipated." And he followed up with this: "As President of the United States, I am asking for a legal solution on DACA, not a political one, consistent with the rule of law. The Supreme Court is not willing to give us one, so now we have to start this process all over again."

To think, DACA's defenders cheered the High Court's decision. These folks are used to being handed a crumb and calling it a feast.


Trump is ready to argue in this election year that โ€” with more than 40 million people filing for unemployment since the pandemic began โ€” "America First" means not just keeping out high-skilled foreigners who compete with Americans for jobs, but also getting rid of those who are already here.

Joseph Edlow, deputy director for policy at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is onboard with Trump's quest to purge immigrants from this land of immigrants. After the Supreme Court's decision, he said in a statement: "Today's court opinion has no basis in law and merely delays the President's lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program. โ€ฆ The fact remains that under DACA, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens continue to remain in our country in violation of the laws passed by Congress and to take jobs Americans need now more than ever."

If you lost your job and you think the government owes you another one, help is on the way.

But defenders of DACA need help, too. Many of them don't seem to understand the program they're defending.

DACA is not a humanitarian program, or it would be permanent. The program is temporary and based on two-year deferments that have to be renewed so these immigrants can work. Immigrants are the ultimate "essential workers" because many of the native-born have forgotten how to work. DACA is an enforcement scheme.

And why is it cruel? In any negotiation, both parties must be on equal footing. It was heartless of President Barack Obama to unfairly take advantage of desperate folks stranded in the desert by offering them a sip of water โ€” not because it was the humane thing to do but as part of a quid pro quo with strings attached and a trap door.

The desperate were going to agree to anything. In this case, more than 600,000 undocumented young people had to turn themselves into authorities, get photographed, be fingerprinted, and hand over their home address, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement could find their parents โ€” who were also presumably undocumented.

Deferred action, eh? What "action" is being deferred? It's not citizenship, or a parade to welcome these so-called Dreamers as full citizens. It's deportation.


Maybe DACA recipients, and their families, didn't get that.

And, you can bet, it was always understood by Obama administration officials that this bill would come due one day. That includes the dastardly Janet Napolitano, the former Homeland Security Secretary, who bragged to Congress about how the number of deportations was going up and insisted for three years that the executive branch couldn't do what it ultimately did.

Welcome to America. Uncle Sam can be a slick salesman. But there's no free lunch.

Meanwhile, the young people trapped in this game think that Obama did them a favor by letting them put their head into the lion's mouth, and that the Democratic Party is their friend and champion.

They don't call them "Dreamers" for nothing. Ruben Navarrette can be reached at

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