If you were to ask unreconstructed old racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, racist Republican Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), or any of the other Republican members of Congress who are proud of their state’s gun “culture” their opinions on a proposal for a national gun registry, you would find unanimous condemnation.
And while the arguments for a gun registry are solid — it can help track weapons used in crimes, prosecute people who provide guns to criminals and terrorists, and recover weapons stolen from legal gun owners — their argument would be that the danger to 2nd Amendment rights far outweighs any good that can come from having a list of guns or gun owners.
You see, a corrupt government will make the decision to take away your rights and use that list as a means of rounding up guns and removing them by force. Such a thing cannot be countenanced under our Constitutional Democracy and so it is best we do not go down that road. We simply cannot trust the government with that information.
Why is it, do you suppose, that these people are so certain that the government will act in bad faith? Why do they suspect that the government is fundamentally corrupt and it will misuse the registry for anything other than its intended purpose?
I believe it’s because they themselves are willing to act in bad faith. The Republicans are in power and they are demonstrating that they are willing to use that power in odious ways that are not just unAmerican, but corrupt in nature.
Yesterday, President Trump shoved Jeff Sessions in front of the cameras to announce that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) would be rescinded. DACA was a program began in 2012 by President Obama to allow people who are American in every aspect but immigration status to be educated, get a job, join the military, and live their lives without the constant fear of deportation.
To be eligible to participate in DACA:
Illegal immigrants must have entered the United States before their 16th birthday and prior to June 2007, be currently in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. The program does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship, nor does it provide eligibility for federal welfare or student aid.
The program is for people who were brought to the United States as children. Under DACA, they were allowed to register with the government, pay a $500 fee, and they were given semi-legal status (legal “presence” rather than legal “status”). DACA participants have to renew their status every two years and must have no criminal record. Today there are about 800,000 DACA recipients (which means the fees alone bring $200 million a year into the treasury). The average age is 26 and most were brought to this country before their 6th birthday. This is the only country they know. Many of them speak no language other than English. So in many ways, these are model immigrants. They have assimilated into our culture because it’s their culture.
But requiring these people to register with the government in good faith created a list of people whose immigration status is on hold, essentially. Now, racists like Jeff Sessions and Steve King want to use that registry to kick these people out of the country. Sound familiar? The same people who are absolutely certain that the government is so corrupt that we can’t have a national gun registry without abusing it to take away the rights of gun owners are now announcing they want to use a different government registry to take away the rights of brown people. They are champing at the bit to deport this low-hanging fruit of self-identified “illegal” immigrants. These are people who pose no threat. They’re not committing crimes. Kicking them out won’t raise anyone’s wages or lower anyone’s taxes. They’re not on welfare. They’re not getting Pell Grants. They’re living and working in the only country they know. But many of them are brown. So bigots like Sessions and King are gleeful at the opportunity to deport them.
“Hold up,” you’re saying. “The right to bear arms is in the Constitution. These people don’t have the right to stay here illegally.” Which is a fair point to bring up in a debate about these issues. But it isn’t the end of the argument. For one thing, DACA participants are innocent of any crime. They were brought here as children. In this country, we don’t hold children accountable for the crimes of their parents. We just don’t. These people are your neighbors, your friends, and your colleagues. They have by definition kept a clean criminal record. They pay taxes. They contribute to our society. To argue that they are illegal is to argue that their existence is illegal. How can it be illegal just to exist? If you throw out the deal we made with them in good faith, then they have a legitimate grievance.
“Hold up,” you’re saying now. “DACA is unconstitutional. President Obama enacted the DACA program illegally.” Again, that’s a point you can bring up (and man does it get brought up a lot in the right-wing media) but that’s an opinion, not fact. The fact is the courts have yet to rule on the Constitutionality of the DACA program. The fact is that the president has prosecutorial discretion with respect to immigration. He can (and did) choose to focus his immigration enforcement efforts elsewhere. In fact, when Arizona passed a law banning DACA participants from receiving state benefits, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction, saying the ban itself was a violation of the law. Both Michigan and North Carolina briefly tried to stop DACA participants from getting drivers licenses but were stopped by the courts.
DACA will work its way through the court system and we’ll eventually get an answer as to the Constitutionality of it. But anyone who makes a claim one way or the other is issuing an opinion, not fact. This includes unreconstructed old racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
We do know some facts about DACA participants thanks to studies by various groups using the information in the registry.
- DACA participants are 38 percent less likely to live in poverty than illegal immigrant households.
- Ending DACA would be a net loss of productivity.
- Ending DACA would be a net loss of $280 billion to tax revenue over ten years.
- Ending DACA would be a net loss of $433 billion to GDP over ten years.
- DACA participants have better mental health outcomes.
- DACA had no impact on the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border.
So why act now? I mean President Trump campaigned on being tough on illegal immigration, but he campaigned on a lot of things that he hasn’t acted on yet. Why DACA and why now? After all, just last week Trump said he loves these people.
A handful of states attorneys general led by Texas threatened to sue Trump if he didn’t end DACA and start deporting this low-hanging fruit. They gave him an arbitrary deadline of Sept. 5. So Trump trotted out Jeff Sessions who was positively giddy about it.
But the president has been sending enough mixed signals to keep Alan Turing busy for the next decade. For starters, he didn’t actually rescind DACA. He announced he was going to rescind it in six months. Then this:
Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
So Trump wants to end DACA, but he wants Congress to enact DACA?
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
So if Congress doesn’t manage to get a DACA bill done in six months, the president won’t end DACA? What else can “I will revisit the issue!” mean? He’s already announced an end to the program in six months. Now he’s saying in six months he’ll look at it again. So does he want the program to end or not? How does this mealy mouthed half-measure actually fulfill his campaign pledge to end DACA?
The simple answer is that it doesn’t. This announcement is a cynical attempt by the president to ensure that the backlash for any bad outcome is on Congress and the praise for any good outcome goes to Trump. While in the business world, that might make you canny, in government, it makes you a coward. That’s not leadership.
There is no reason other than racism to end DACA. The act of rescinding this program is itself a corrupt act because the participants acted in good faith with the government of the only country they know. Using their own willingness to play ball against them is a cowardly act. Perhaps that’s why White House staff were secretly afraid that Trump might find out what DACA really was because he might have changed his mind.