On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially announced a decision about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program instituted by President Obama.
The move was met by outrage on both sides of the aisle over the threat posed to over 800,000 Americans who were brought to the country illegally as children, and have never known any other home. Many do not even speak the language of the countries they would face deportation to.
To make it even worse, the administration has announced that the list of DACA permit-holders may be used to target them for deportation, after they volunteered that information in exchange for the promise of not being deported.
There’s a twist, though. Trump has announced a six-month window for Congress to act. Democrats and many Republicans have announced they intend to do just that. Opponents have claimed Obama exceeded his executive authority by using prosecutorial discretion in such a manner. Now they have the chance to put their money where their mouth is, and pass legislation to codify DACA or something like it into law.
Would Trump actually sign a clean DACA bill?
Assume the best-case scenario, which is that a substantial number of Republicans join with all of the Democrats to pass such legislation and put it on the president’s desk. At that point, it will still be up to Donald Trump to either sign or veto it.
After campaigning hard against any sort of amnesty and in favor of aggressive mass deportation, what are the chances that Donald Trump’s first major legislation signed will be a simple amnesty for an estimated 1 million to 2 million of the nation’s eleven million undocumented workers? After catering to his base by terminating the executive order, can he then turn around and put his name on the same thing in legislative form?
It seems highly unlikely. While this was an apparent attempt to put the ball back in Congress’s court, that just means the issue eventually comes to the president all the same.
A veto-proof majority for DACA is essential
Meanwhile, what if Trump demands conditions on such a bill? An obvious example would be to insist on funding for his promised border wall. But such an insistence would likely kill the bill in Congress, as would reducing legal immigration levels as recently proposed by Trump.
Congress needs to act. But in order to act effectively, it might not be enough to muster simple majorities in both the House and Senate. Instead, enough Republicans need to vote for a clean DACA bill, such as the DREAM Act, in sufficient numbers to override a veto.
With more than two-third of the representatives and senators, Trump will have little choice but to sign what he is given. As with the Russia sanctions bill, he might voice objections. But even Trump is smart enough to avoid Congress overriding his veto.
Congressional Republicans need to do more than just the minimum. To avoid a possible veto or poison-pill demands, Republicans must join with all Democrats to pass a fix this mess by veto-proof supermajorities.