This week will bring more attention to two of the cruelest and most unpopular elements of the Trump administration’s relentless anti-immigrant agenda: family separation and their effort to end DACA and target Dreamers. Both of these topics are coming to a head due to legal rulings – reminding observers of both the cruelty of this administration and ensuring that two politically toxic issues for Republicans are prominent in the national conversation.
On Saturday, District Court Judge Dolly Gee denied the Trump administration’s request seeking a delay in today’s deadline requiring them to release children being jailed in ICE family detention facilities. As Jacob Soboroff of NBC News recaps, Judge Gee wrote that ICE has discretion to release detainees, “as this Court has ordered time and again.” It’s time for the Trump administration to allow all the families held in detention to be released into proven alternatives that are effective, humane, hold down costs and keep families together – especially given the dangers of COVID in detention facilities.
Unfortunately, barring a court order to the contrary, the Trump administration appears set to replay the systematic separation of children from their parents by forcing moms and dads into an impossible choice: either staying together as a family in facilities that endanger all of their lives or allowing their children to be ripped away and released on their own with uncertain prospects (at best) of ever being reunited. Family separation is not just morally abhorrent, but horrible politics for the GOP. See this roundup for a reminder of polling and analysis on how family separation is politically toxic for Republicans, especially among suburban women.
The Trump administration is now in open defiance of the judicial branch by ignoring recent court rulings and refusing to open up DACA to new applicants as they ponder another attempt to try to end the popular program. As the Washington Post reported, “Trump administration officials said during a federal court hearing Friday that they have not ‘granted nor rejected’ any applications for a program designed to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation, but rather have put them ‘on hold’ as the government discusses the future of the program.” This is openly defying recent court rulings, which compel the Trump administration to continue renewing DACA for the 650,000 current DACA recipients, and to reopen DACA to new applicants, such as the 66,000 Dreamers who were too young to apply for DACA when Trump ended the program in September 2017, but are eligible now.
Continuing to target Dreamers and DACA is not just cruel, but extremely unpopular. A recent op-ed in Roll Call by former Republican Rep. Ryan Costello noted, “Attempts by [the] White House to terminate [the DACA] program could put GOP Senate majority in jeopardy this fall.” According to Global Strategy Group (in polling conducted on behalf of The Immigration Hub, America’s Voice, and FWD.us), in the twelve 2020 battleground states, Americans support citizenship for Dreamers by 72-19%. This includes strong majorities of Democrats (88-7%), Independents (69-13%) and Republicans (57-33%). The GSG poll echoes other DACA and Dreamer polls in recent years that find that Americans overwhelmingly support Dreamers. See this recent poll roundup on overwhelming support for DACA and Dreamers.
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:
The Trump administration’s actions on family separation and DACA are morally bankrupt, deliberately cruel and politically toxic. The bottomless cruelty toward immigrants, Dreamers and asylum-seekers knows no limits.
But those issues also offer a reminder that the White House’s anti-immigrant obsessions come at a tremendous political cost for Trump’s reelection and down-ballot Republicans alike. Attacking Dreamers and ripping kids from their parents at a time when the American people are laser-focused on coming together to resolve our nation’s public health and economic crises are politically tone deaf even by this administration’s standards.
For a President and a party already hemorrhaging suburban voters, the young and diverse voters who comprise the new American electorate, and other voting blocs among the 80% of the public who opposes Trump on these issues, these actions just augment the bleeding.