February 19th, 2016

What was Trump actually saying about DACA—or was he saying anything about it?

In the comments section of last night’s post there was a discussion about what Trump actually meant to say during his press conference when asked about Obama’s deferred action on illegal minors, otherwise known as DACA. There is a video at the link, but this was how Trump’s remarks began:

REPORTER: Um, there are over a hundred thousand young people known as DREAMers…

TRUMP: Yeah.

REPORTER: Who have the deferred action given to them by the Obama administration..

TRUMP: Sure. I think it’s great.

That was about it on the actual subject of DACA, because then Trump went on an extended riff about other people in this country—especially young black people—needing to be able to dream as well. When the reporter asked him again whether he would revoke Obama’s deferred action (although the only thing he’d said about it thus far was “it’s great”) Trump then replied “I’ll look into it” and took a new question.

When I wrote last night’s post, I assumed that most people would remember what “deferred action given to them by the Obama administration” refers to. But it occurs to me that it happened long enough ago that perhaps a lot of people can’t recall it.

Immigration and illegal immigration—and what to do about future immigration as well as the immigrants and illegal immigrants already here—is Trump’s signature policy, the stance on which he is attracting many of his supporters. The reporter’s question was about deferred action on DREAMers (more officially known as DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This was one of the most controversial policies of Obama regarding immigration, and one that most Republicans objected to when it was announced in the summer of 2012:

President Obama announced on June 15, 2012, that the U.S. Dept. Homeland Security would not deport certain DREAM Act–eligible undocumented youth. Under a directive from the secretary of DHS, these youth will be given temporary relief called “deferred action.”

Do you remember what a brouhaha that caused? You could even argue that it’s a form of amnesty (although not citizenship) for people here illegally. That was one objection to it. Another was how it was done: executive rather than Congressional action—that is, an executive grant of amnesty from deportation, and the granting of certain privileges, because Congress wouldn’t pass a statute granting these things.

Now we have Trump saying “It’s great!” What did he mean? Perhaps he didn’t understand what she was talking about. But let’s say that Trump did understand, and that he meant what he said. If so, that would (a) be enormous news and a huge reversal of his usual attitude towards immigration and amnesty; and (b) it would require an explanation of some sorts, at the very minimum—for example, telling us whether he thinks the whole thing was great, including the method by which it was done, and why he is departing from most of the GOP on this.

Expecting a candidate to be minimally conversant with something that was not a small story, or a little unimportant detail—on an issue that is his own signature issue—is not asking someone to be a detail man. It is asking someone to have the absolute minimum of knowledge about something he’s supposedly been studying and thinking about since June and even before June.

Here’s more about the things that Obama’s “deferred action” effected, things which Trump apparently either doesn’t know about, or doesn’t think he needs to talk about, or thinks are “great” (or some combination of those choices):

While the DREAM Act failed, the name stuck, and now the term DREAMers applies generally to illegal aliens under the age of 35 seeking full or partial legalization / amnesty and/or taxpayer subsidized tuition…

In 2012, President Obama unilaterally implemented a new program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates there are 1.2 million DREAMers to whom this action applies. Under DACA, illegal aliens are offered two years of amnesty (“deferred action” – meaning a stay of deportation), are given a social security number, and are allowed to apply for a work permit…

In August, 2012, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, stated:

“The president”s amnesty program is a magnet for fraud and abuse. While potentially millions of illegal immigrants will be permitted to compete with American workers for scarce jobs, there seems to be little if any mechanism in place for vetting fraudulent applications and documentation submitted by illegal immigrants.”

Isn’t competition for jobs between citizens and illegal immigrants one of Trump’s main themes, as well?

And finally—and in a way this might be most important—Obama’s issuance of DACA is one of the reasons for the influx of under-18 illegal immigrants to this country that picked up steam during the summer of 2014. I wrote about it in this post, citing this CS Monitor article:

At issue is Mr. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which in 2012 allowed some undocumented immigrants who came to America as minors to defer deportation for two years. Last week, the administration announced guidelines for how these immigrants could defer deportation for a further two years.

DACA would not apply to anyone coming across the border today. Only undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as minors before June 15, 2007, are eligible. But to Republican critics, DACA created the opportunity for misinformation and confusion.

“Word has gotten out around the world about President Obama’s lax immigration enforcement policies and it has encouraged more individuals to come to the United States illegally,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R) of Virginia, a key broker in immigration reform efforts on Capitol Hill, in a statement last week…

…Obama called the situation [the increase in young illegal immigrants] a “humanitarian crisis” Monday. Poverty and violence are driving the migration, administration officials say, and activists working with migrants agree. But some also suggest that DACA could be a factor.

At the time, there was quite a bit of consensus on the right about DACA being part of the impetus for the groundswell of recent illegal immigration of minors and resultant anti-illegal-immigrant sentiment—a sentiment that later ended up fueling Trump’s bid for the presidency.

Although, come to think of it, maybe Trump thinks it’s “great” because without it he wouldn’t have had a chance at being nominated. And whatever benefits Trump is “great.”

However you interpret Trump’s remarks, this sort of press conference answer should strike fear into the hearts of his supporters. Of course, it doesn’t. Nor is it being especially publicized, as far as I know. That’s because the press wants Trump as the nominee for two reasons. The first is that, with their help, he can be destroyed in the general when this sort of thing, plus almost countless incidents from Trump’s past, are trotted out and exploited. The second is that he’s very very good for business—their business, that is.

7 Responses to “What was Trump actually saying about DACA—or was he saying anything about it?”

  1. sdferr Says:

    “It’s great!” the tyrannical aggregation of once rigorously separated powers of legislation and administrative execution. Just great.

  2. KLSmith Says:

    What he said about individual mandates for healthcare and people dying in the streets might be worse.

  3. neo-neocon Says:


    Trump says so many awful things it can be hard to choose which one is worst.

    One of the things his supporters count on, however, is that his statements often contradict each other. So if he says something bad about something, they can often point to a time when he said the opposite, and choose to believe he meant the one they like.

  4. KLSmith Says:

    Yep, the Teflon Don.

  5. parker Says:

    Trump is right, he could commit murder in Times Square and his fans would shout bravo! What a strange, twisted man commanding the spotlight at such a crucial time.

  6. sdferr Says:

    What a strange, twisted man commanding the spotlight at such a crucial time.

    What strange followers to continue to follow one who insults their intelligence so forcefully in a public proclamation.

  7. mr burns Says:

    Trump really doesn’t know all that much, and isn’t interested in anything but money, power and sex. He also changes his positions incessantly, for example espousing touchback amnesty and legal status for all without criminal records after they are deported . Thus it is impossible to say if trumps DACA comments are due to ignorance, inconsistency or both.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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