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Key Questions as Trump, GOP Face “Moment of Reckoning” Over Future of DACA and Dreamers

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Senator Lindsey Graham framed up the stakes well yesterday, saying:

The campaign is over. To the Republican Party, who are we? What do we believe? The moment of reckoning is coming. When they write the history of these times, I’m going to be with these kids.

With the futures of the nearly 800,000 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients under threat, here are three key questions and three key reminders regarding the need to keep DACA in place until Congress enacts a permanent solution:

Will President Trump be the decider on DACA or let Jeff Sessions and other anti-immigrant hardliners force his hand? President Trump, who has said that Dreamers should “rest easy,” recently called DACA a “decision that I make.” Yet, embattled U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and 10 anti-immigrant state AGs led by Texas AG Ken Paxton are trying to bully the President and force his President’s hand on DACA. The Republican state AG’s threatened the Trump Administration: if DACA isn’t ended by September 5th, they will sue to block it before a federal judge named Andrew Hanen, the notoriously anti-immigrant judge who blocked the 2014 DAPA program. Paxton seems to have a willing ally in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has long opposed DACA and would only have to refuse to defend the program in court for it to come to an end. This maneuver would undermine the President’s decider-in-chief role. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized yesterday, he needs to stand up to such bullying.

Will DHS Secretary John Kelly stand up or stand back? By his own stated standards, DHS Secretary John Kelly should be a strong supporter of the Dream Act. In April, Secretary Kelly issued a “plea” to Members of Congress regarding Dreamers, saying “Solve the problem legislatively.” Secretary Kelly also calls himself a personal supporter of DACA. Yet as Elise Foley wrote in HuffPost, Secretary Kelly “won’t back” the reintroduced bipartisan Dream Act, with a DHS spokesman saying only that Kelly “supports the president’s position.” Wasn’t he supposed to be a leader who would be an ‘adult in the room?’ This behavior is just the opposite.

Will other Republicans follow the courage of Senator Graham and Senator Jeff Flake, or the cowardice of senator Marco Rubio? Sen. Graham is from South Carolina, not exactly a pro-immigrant stronghold. Sen. Flake (R-AZ) is facing the prospect of a primary challenge, perhaps aided and abetted by the White House. Both have stepped up to do the right thing. By contrast, Sen. Rubio, from the immigrant-rich state of Florida, can muster only weak excuses. Classic Rubio: wrap obvious political calculation in policy double-talk in hopes of obfuscating the political calculation.

DACA works and offering protections for Dreamers makes sense and benefits us all – here are three reminders why:

DACA, and protection for Dreamers, is popular – even with Trump voters: Public support for Dreamers is strong, even among Trump supporters. According to an April Morning Consult and Politico poll, 78% of American voters support giving Dreamers the chance to stay permanently in America, including 73% of Trump voters. Only 14% of all voters (23% of Trump supporters) think Dreamers should be deported.

New pro-DACA Attorneys General letter has twice the signers of anti-DACA state AG letter: new letter from Attorneys General in 19 states and the District of Columbia – twice the number of the Paxton-led AG effort – makes a compelling case for keeping DACA in place, noting: “The consequences of rescinding DACA would be severe, not just for the hundreds of thousands of young people who rely on the program – and for their employers, schools, universities and families – but for the country’s economy as a whole.”

Ending DACA would be an economic disaster for America: New analysis by the Center for American Progress shows that a decision to end DACA would cost the U.S. government more than $460 billion in lost GDP over the next decade. As CAP noted, “Altogether, the 10 states demanding that the Trump administration end DACA – Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, and West Virginia – stand to lose more than $8 billion annually in state GDP if they get their wish.”