This week, President Trump showed the American people and the Washington establishment how real leadership works.
His decision to eventually phase out – rather than abruptly end – the controversial Obama-era immigration policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) struck the perfect balance of law and order, American pragmatism, and compassion.
As a matter of law, the DACA policy is almost universally regarded as unconstitutional.
In 2012, after failing to get Congress to pass immigration reform he liked, Obama used executive action to give work permits to people illegally living in the United States who were brought here as children.
The problem is, under the Constitution, Congress is tasked with creating the law; the president is responsible for enforcing it. That means a president cannot create a new immigration work permit out of thin air – a point President Obama acknowledged the year before he implemented DACA.
Since 2012, about 800,000 people have enrolled in the DACA program. Most of them are now in their mid-twenties. The vast majority are law-abiding individuals who go to school, go to work, and contribute to their communities. Many would like to become legal citizens but have no legal option to do so. Their core legal status is now in jeopardy because the program designed to help them was created outside the rule of law without any guarantee of longevity.
The Left would like us to believe there are only two choices: Ignore the Constitution and continue the DACA program, or end it, inflicting chaos, pain, and uncertainty upon more than half a million human beings.
Instead, in a remarkable display of leadership, President Trump found a third option – one that returns responsibility for writing our nation’s immigration laws to the Congress, while showing compassion for the Dreamers. Not only will the six-month phase-out provide Congress the time it needs to come up with a legal solution to DACA, but it will also give Dreamers assurance that they need not fear abrupt deportation. In this way, President Trump cut through the noise and found a pragmatic solution that is constitutional and compassionate.
President Trump did this because he recognizes that most individuals in the DACA program didn’t come here on their own volition. In fact, the average age at which those enrolled were brought to the United States is six years old. Today, they are simply trying to follow the rules, so they can live and work in the United States – and perhaps someday become United States citizens. Ultimately, the President wants to give these hardworking, patriotic, entrepreneurial people the legal options they need but currently lack.
As he told pool reporters late Tuesday, "I have a love for these people, and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly. And I can tell you, speaking to members of Congress, they want to be able to do something and do it right."
The vast majority of Americans from both parties agree with President Trump. A Morning Consult survey in June found that 78 percent of voters think people brought to the United States illegally when they were children should be able to stay in the United States. More than half of those asked (56 percent) said Dreamers should be able to become citizens. The poll found that even among Trump voters, 73 percent said Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the U.S., and 48 percent said they should be offered a legal path to citizenship.
President Trump’s decision to force Congress to fix the DACA problem is exactly the right first step toward improving our immigration system. And DACA should not be hard to fix – especially if Congress follows the Trump model of being constitutional and compassionate.
Newt Gingrich is the author of 'Understanding Trump' and is a former Speaker of the House.