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A Crucial Balancing Act: DACA and Enhanced Border Security

President Trump has invited an explosion in Congress with his recession of the 2012 Obama Executive Order that protected undocumented aliens who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were still children and before 2007.

There is majority public support for legislation to protect the “DACAs” (Deferred Action [for] Childhood Arrivals).

Three bills have been entered into Congressional hopper – the bi-partisan Senate Dream Act 2017, the House Recognizing America’s Children Act and the House Dream Act.

Nancy Pelosi, embolden by her meeting with President Trump, insists House Democrats will settle for nothing less than their Dream Act – which broadens the categories of eligibility beyond President Obama’s Executive Order and offers Dreamers a direct path to American citizenship.

The two other bills take a more measured approach — offering at first provisional legal status to work, travel, go to school, etc. Only after serving several years of provisional status would “Dreamers” earn a right to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship — hardly a “get out of jail free” card.

Initial reaction on Capitol Hill suggests that there is broad support, in Congress, for DACA-fix legislation – limited in scope and purpose.

After sixteen years of bi-partisan failure to pass such a bill what is different this time?

Passing a small, targeted immigration bill will benefit both political parties going into the 2018 mid-term elections.

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

Does President Trump think he can trade a DACA law for his often promised southern “border wall”? It’s possible but not realistic.

More realistically — the Republican majority in Congress knows it cannot afford to lose this opportunity to partially rebuild its relationship with Hispanic voters. But the GOP must also be responsive to its own base – which has used its votes repeatedly to demand enhanced border security first and granting legal status second.

Democrats will seek political advantage in the mid-term elections by supporting a “clean DACA law” (effectively an amnesty) that would attract more Hispanic support from the US citizen brothers and sisters of the Dreamers — even at the expense of further erosion of their traditional organized union, blue collar base in the mid-west.

Representatives and senators in the center of both parties have a clear common interest. The majority want a bill they can pass, the President will sign, and that they can defend to their constituents during the 2018 primary and general elections.

Senators as philosophically opposed as Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Diane Feinstein (D-California) have both acknowledged that only a DACA Fix that includes steps to strengthen our border security meets all three conditions.

Effective Border Security Doesn’t Mean Walls

A wall on our southern border — even if Mexico or Congress was willing to pay for it – will not secure our borders.

Fact is every year since 2007 more than half of the illegal immigrants to the USA have been airport arrival “visa overstays”.

Technology, not concrete, is the solution to our 360 degree land, air, and sea border security problem.

  1. Strengthen E-Verify

The 1986 Immigration Reform Act (aka Simpson Mazzoli) attempted to balance compassion for some two million illegal aliens who had been in the country for many years with stronger border security and enforcement measures.

The 1986 legislation defined as a crime any USA employer hiring/employing a person who could not prove they had the legal right to work (and live) in the United States.

To help employers stay “on the right side of the law”, Congress mandated the development of an electronic verification system – E Verify — every employer would need to use to verify every new employee’s “work authorization status”.

The bureaucracy took a different approach than the law required while subsequent Congresses just looked the other way.

Participation in the E-Verify System is voluntary unless the employer is a federal contractor – or in some states a state contractor. There is only limited enforcement even for federal contractors.

Any other employer can enroll to use the system on a voluntary basis with little risk of being subjected to enforcement action by Homeland Security.

Under current Homeland Security policy, even if a new hire is “non-compliant” – determined not to have work authorization – termination is not required only strongly suggested.

Congress should give Homeland Security twelve months from date of passage of new Border Security legislation to deliver an E-Verify System that is tested, proven and works.

Once tested and proven, the system must be made mandatory for all newly hired workers – every employer, everywhere – with significant civil and criminal penalties for employers that violate it.

Restricting the E-Verify mandate to new hires will protect those working without papers in the USA today – i.e. DACA’s parents – from termination because of status.

No DACAs could move from provisional status to permanent resident status until E-Verify is successively implemented, rolled out nationally and demonstrated to work – including employer enforcement.

  1. Discourage Illegal Entry with Improved Tracking Technology at Every Border

Simultaneously, Customs and Border Security must
improve its ability to electronically track arrivals and departures of tourists and other foreign nationals with temporary (time fenced) visas.

Currently, a photo is taken of every airport arrival and stored with passport information collected prior to and upon arrival.

Today, Homeland Security has no way to track where a “visitor” goes once they cross the border or walk out of the airport. It’s just too easy to blend in and stay – get a job, rent an apartment, or buy a car.

  • Congress should authorize the Attorney General to determine the Constitutionality of attaching a GPS tracking device to all foreign passports in the United States to ensure timely departures.
  1. Eyes in Sky

High tech surveillance is part of 21st century life – at the mall, the airport, the stop light, on the freeway – rendering walls historic artifacts.

Congress needs to increase funding for technology already used by Border Patrol including satellites, in the ground sensors, and drones to patrol remote stretches of both the southern and northern borders.

  • More drone operators, for example, to spot irregular arrivals faster and guide border patrol agents to apprehend them.
  • Ground level sensor technology can be more effective than walls.
  1. A Tamper-proof Internal Identification System

Homeland Security must be given a deadline to negotiate a plan with the states to issue technically sophisticated drivers’ licenses and other internal identification documents.

  • Congress first mandated a tamper-proof “National ID” following 9/11 but it has never been implemented.
  • Adding technical sophistication to our (state issued) internal identity documents will prevent the possibility of unauthorized immigrants using our air travel system – reducing the terrorist threat as well.
    • Some states currently issue Driver’s Licenses to undocumented aliens but those licenses must meet federal guidelines that insure TSA can quickly identify them as not authorized for air travel.

Tamper-proof national identification documents are, also, a defense against the growing national threat from counterfeiting and identity theft.

None of these four steps would deny sanctuary to anyone currently in the United States.

Build Public Confidence for Immigration Reform

If the public saw each step implemented, tracked and succeeding — public confidence in the government’s ability to secure our borders would grow.

Simultaneously, Congress could use the two or three years required to implement and assess the effectiveness of these first border security steps to develop a thoughtful set of next steps to fairly resolve the status of DACA’s parents and other undocumented immigrants.

Securing the border along with resolving the legal status of those who have been living in the shadows of America for many years would
build public confidence in the government’s ability to manage our immigration system.

Public confidence is the necessary pre-requisite to a comprehensive 21st century immigration reform plan.

Graphic courtesy of iconfinder.com

 

Compassion Combined with Enforcement Can End DACA Crisis

The decision of the Trump Administration to rescind the Obama era executive order on DACA without a Congressional agreement to fix the problem is baffling.

The President and the Attorney General have created yet another legislative crisis for a Congress already overwhelmed by seemingly irreconcilable differences ranging from how to increase and manage the national debt ceiling to passing a 2018 federal budget (for the first time in 8 years) as a pre-requisite for any meaningful discussion of tax reform.

After years of promises, Congress does not yet have any reasonable plan to repeal, replace or repair the Affordable Care Act.

They’ve not passed a Defense Authorization Appropriation in the face of worrisome aggressive actions and threats against the United States by nuclear capable North Korea. Not to mention the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and so forth.

In the face of the well documented philosophic splits inside and between both political parties represented in the 115th Congress – it is unlikely that meaningful tax reform can muster any combination of the required 60 votes in the Senate.

Adding a legislative “DACA-fix” to Congress’ already impossible 2017 to-do-list is akin to throwing a match into a house with a gas-leak so you can enjoy the fiery explosion.

DACA is a Result of 2012 Presidential Politics

President Obama insisted for four years that he “lacked the Constitutional authority” to intervene on behalf of undocumented aliens living in the United States – arguing only Congress could change the law.

But in the run up to the 2012 Presidential Election, President Obama changed his mind about the extent of his executive power to protect undocumented (“illegal”) aliens living in the United States.

Facing a tougher than expected 2012 re-election challenge from Mitt Romney, he used Executive Orders to protect two classes of illegal immigrants from deportation proceedings and grant them temporary work permits – a total of more than three point six (3.6) million people.

  • Deferred Action (for) Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • Deferred Action (for) Parents (of) Americans (DAPA)

The Supreme Court agreed with President Obama’s first position — ruling DAPA and some parts of DACA to be unconstitutional in 2015 but left limited DACA protections in place.

While some might ascribe cynical political motives to President Obama we can all agree that, as a parent himself, he believed it is unfair to punish children for the sins of their parents.

The 600,000 to 800,000 young people who remained eligible for deferred action are between 18 and 30 years of age, originally brought to the United States illegally by their parents when they were children. They’ve grown up in the United States. Many have siblings born in the United States who are citizens.

These young people know no other country than the United States. There are, except for their immigration status, indistinguishable from their classmates, neighbors, work place colleagues or citizen spouses.

Some don’t even speak the language of the country of their birth.

The young people who have “come out of the shadows” by applying for a two year renewal work permit under DACA are contributing members of society.

They are caught in the limbo of Congress’ bi-partisan failure to frontally address a United States Immigration System that is completely broken and politicized – an impasse that has existed continuously since 2004 through majority Republican and majority Democratic congresses.

Immigration Reform Begins One Small Step (Bill) at a Time

As soon as Attorney General Session announced a planned end to the deferral program, members of both parties in Congress rushed to find a camera to promise a quick bi-partisan legislative solution to the DACA problem.

The White House press secretary even urged Congress to immediately pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But, if it were so easy – wouldn’t Congress have done it in 2004 or 2007 or 2010, 2012? The devil is in the details.

The history of comprehensive immigration reform – last enacted in 1986 – does not inspire confidence in the American people.

The 1986 “carrot” — amnesty to some two million undocumented aliens — was implemented right away but the “sticks” of stronger border control and stepped-up interior enforcement – E Verify (Employment Eligibility Verification) – have never been fully implemented.

The result is an estimated 11 million more undocumented immigrants today who point to 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli as evidence they have a “right” to legal status.

As a nation we just don’t do comprehensive well. Instead of one big omnibus bill that will never be fully understood or implemented, Congress should start with several, more modest, single purpose bills that can be fitted together in an interlocking immigration reform package — implemented, measured, tracked and enforced one step at a time over several years – starting with DACA.

Bi-Partisan Incremental Deal

The American people have shown in recent Politico polling support for – and our economy needs — more skilled and younger immigrants who can assimilate into American culture – the definition of a Dreamer (DACA).

A bi-partisan poll of the American political center taken by NBC News and Esquire Magazine in 2013 demonstrated a willingness to grant legal status (even eventual citizenship) to undocumented immigrants living in the United States for many years if the government can demonstrate the border is secured against further unauthorized immigration.

The Trump Administration created a “Dreamer crisis” and then gave Congress six months to “fix” the problem. That’s not constructive.

The Trump Administration must work with Congress to fashion a legislative process which builds the trust of the American people and sets the stage for future legislation to modernize our antiquated immigration system.

A reform bill that conveys legal status to qualifying Dreamers who arrived in the USA before 2007 linked to a companion bill focused on improved northern, southern; land, sea and air border security seems a good place to start.

 

Graphic is courtesy of the Delgado Law Group — with thanks

Trump versus the People

4th of July weekend – the time we commemorate the moment American patriots threw off the shackles of a crazy English King George III and began the world’s longest experiment in democratic republican government.

While the rockets are firing into the sky, we should take a moment to wonder much longer we can claim to be a functioning democratic republic unless our elected officials turn from fighting each other to fighting for us.

Average earnings of Americans have continuously declined since the late 1970s.

The health care industry puts profits over the quality and quantity of American lives.

Our tax system favors the richest among us against everyone else.

Our infrastructure is decaying and crumbling:

  • Water Supplies
  • Flood Control
  • Power Grid
  • Roads
  • Bridges
  • Public Transit
  • Airports
  • Sea Ports

Good, middle class American industrial jobs are disappearing faster than innovation can replace them.

Immigration is flooding the top and bottom of our society sandwiching and compressing the middle class – upon which the fabric of democratic government depends.

Our nation is not secure – not from foreign adversaries, not from domestic terrorism, not from a debt crisis much worse than 2008.

Enter King Donald

In complete frustration the American people took a chance – electing a businessman/TV personality best known for the phrase “you’re fired” to occupy the highest office in the land.

A business person, voters reasoned, would shake up the impenetrable institutional government – Washington, D.C. – and might bring opportunity back to the American heartland.

Hillary Clinton was the epitome of that fossilized, institutional government – explaining why Donald Trump is now residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Accepting the Republican nomination, Donald Trump promised to be the “voice of the forgotten” American.

But he has forgotten that promise.

This man — whose actions have the potential to impact every person on earth — listens only to the voice of accolades and acolytes.

Fail to flatter and you will be fired. Ask James Comey!

Personal presidential loyalty tests have stalled State Department policy nominees denying Secretary Tillerson the staff he needs to navigate a world fraught with challenges – several of which could easily erupt into shooting wars involving the United States.

Presidential briefings must be kept short because the president has a “limited attention span” – when he listens to his advisers at all.

The Trump Cabinet agenda includes some praise worthy ideas and initiatives but they are completely subsumed by President’s impetus behavior, incoherent tweets, and blatant nepotism.

This Form of Governance Can’t Continue

The President’s tweets demonstrate the significant mismatch between the skills the President gained as the “boss” of a small, family-owned business with a deceptively large bottom-line and those needed by the Chief-Executive-Officer of the United States – the titular “leader of the free world”.

The celebrity business man had a reputation for personal charm that masked unethical business practices and a penchant for “getting even”.

His tweets attacking the press call into question his understanding of the roll of the press. As far back as the 1763 Tea Party the press has been an institutional “opponent” intended to keep the government honest.

Following his Inauguration, @realDonaldTrump tweets demonstrated the depth of the President’s narcissism and how much of that narcissism is driven by deep seated insecurity. Something that voters did not expect!

Some tweets have been simply self-destructive, while others demonstrate a lack of impulse control. The tweeted potential of White House tapes gave James Comey the idea to leak a contemporaneous memo to New York Times (via a cutout).

Voila – instead of suppressing the “Russia investigation” those tweets prompted the appointment of a special counsel more interested in determining whether the President “obstructed justice” than clearing him of charges of “collusion” in the 2016 election.

This week’s tweets concerning the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe are further evidence of the President’s lack of self-discipline, lack of self-awareness, misogyny, bullying and limited acquaintance with the truth.

Those are not the skills of a national leader. Leaders accept the role of criticism as part of the job! Criticism forces self-awareness, begs the question “what-if”.

History demonstrates criticism becomes the genesis of consensus – which has been the life’s blood of the American experiment with representative democracy.

Criticism forces our leaders to re-examine their own beliefs and – perhaps — to alter them. They are not, after all, infallible.

American democracy flourishes when our leaders acknowledge their own fallibility and, as a result, are able to listen, facilitate and bring together the people and their representatives — whose disparate ideas and experiences hold the common kernel of solution.

Instead, this President’s tweets have, sadly, become the “bright shiny object” sowing confrontation and confusion instead of building consensus.

Donald Trump has no real beliefs and no grasp of policy. For example – one day championing a Republican health care plan and the next day calling it cruel and on day three championing total repeal of the law it claims to “fix”.

Convene the President’s Club

It is time for the Presidents’ Club to convene a meeting with their latest member. These five former Presidents are best positioned to evaluate the potential of this President to grow into the office he now inhabits.

They will put the best interests of the nation before all other considerations.

If they conclude the President is “unfit” – that he lacks the skills and personality characteristics needed to learn to lead the nation and is unwilling to learn – he must go.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified for just such a situation.

Some Democrats in the House of Representatives have formed a committee to investigate invoking the 25th Amendment against President Trump. They should stand down – their efforts are blatantly political and this is not a time for politics – but for patriotism.

In this case, if the five members of the Presidents’ Club were to find Mr. Trump “unfit” to discharge the duties of the office of President of the United States, they could petition the Congress to create a law to empower them to petition for the President’s removal.

Such a law would have to have some stringent requirements for removal that would protect the process from accusations that the motives were political.

And the five former Presidents (3 Democrats and 2 Republicans) would need to meet directly with the American people and make a detailed, objective and impartial case for removal.

Then Congress would need to vote yes or no to remove the President

in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

Fireworks photo courtesy of mountvernon.org

Good Grief President Trump!!

Good Grief President Trump!!

Since your Inauguration barely a week ago – President Trump – you have managed to upset important allies and trading partners, blindsided your national security team, frightened legal immigrants, and angered your own GOP majority in the Congress.

The majority of voters in over 30 states voted for you because they believed you would create jobs — not nationwide and global chaos!

I am troubled by both the pace of activity and the lack of strategic direction in your early actions. What’s the goal?

I was troubled enough to throw down $12.95 for a Kindle copy of your oft referenced “Art of the Deal” to see if I could make sense of the chaos.

Any Art in Your Executive Orders?

So far I’ve learned that Trump, the builder, sees himself as an “idea machine”; an entrepreneur who leaves the details to other people. He dislikes structure. He sometimes enjoys playing the “bad cop”.

His “bad cop” has stirred more global protest in just one week than the United States has seen since the end of the Vietnam War – over 40 years ago.

For a year and half you talked about all the “good deals” you were going to make for America.

It is time to stop stirring up the pot and start delivering DEALS that will keep Americans safe and prosperous at home and abroad.

Those are deals that heal the divisions within the United States as well as between the United States and its allies and “friendenemies” around the world.

Confrontation Does Not Lead to Good Deals

Good deals can be defined as deals where both sides in a negotiation get something they need by giving up something they want.

In my world we call it “finding the win/win”.

In the senior ranks of management consulting firms, my performance was judged on the ability to develop new business and manage executive relationships (i.e. new clients and new projects with existing clients). Execution – getting results – was always the foundation of success but revenue and relationships were the bottom-line.

Building a good deal does not start with a confrontation – as have so many of your actions in the last 10 days.

The art of building relationships and negotiating good deals starts with being a good listener and empathizer – not a frenetic actor!

Robert Gates, the highly respected former CIA Chief and Defense Secretary to both Presidents Bush and Obama, did not support you before the election. But – a patriot – he met with you at Trump Tower after the election.

Gates has generously described you as “thoughtful” and “open to advice”.

I found that description comforting – those are absolutely necessary characteristics in the President of the United States.

But, if you are a good listener, then the next two questions should raise alarm: Who have you asked for advice and – more importantly — who should you ask for advice as the “leader of the free world”?

Why Experience Matters

Based on the public evidence, you appear to be listening less to the experienced generals you’ve appointed to lead your national security team and more to the under skilled sycophants in the White House.

Is proximity the only source of power in your White House?

Press reports and the actions of General Kelly suggest that Homeland Security was not consulted before you issued new travel and immigration restrictions on Muslims from seven countries already under strict review.

Who persuaded you that announcing Mexico would pay for the southern border wall “one way or another” was the way to open negotiations or improve our relationship with Mexico?

Humiliating the Mexican president publicly instead of meeting with him privately this week in Washington makes NO sense!

Your actions and words will make it more difficult from Rex Tillerson (when he is confirmed) and General Kelly to negotiate a border security deal that serves the interests of both Mexico and the United States:

  • Stop illegal immigration transiting Mexico into the United States whether Mexican, Central American, Chinese or would-be terrorists and
  • Stop the drug smuggling that has cost countless lives on both sides of the border.

The reaction by the Mexican people and their political establishment to those words will, also, complicate renegotiation of NAFTA.

Nothing was gained. You can’t even check-off a campaign promise kept.

Start Firing the Right People

This week, President Trump, you need to restart your administration. The success of your Presidency hangs in the balance.

Bold action is required.

You’ve got to eliminate the people who have proven their advice is bad advice.

Time to tell physically and intellectually over-inflated Steven Bannon and the self-aggrandizing political errand boy Stephen Miller “you’re fired”.

Next ask the “4 Stars” what to do with “3 Star” General Michael Flynn. Then follow their advice!

Good luck – the nation is counting on you not to screw this up beyond repair in just two weeks.