By Robert Pittenger
America is a nation of laws, and we function best when those laws are applied fairly and equally.
This week, President Trump announced an orderly wind-down of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA. This Obama-era program grants temporary legal status to illegal immigrants brought into the United States as children, including work permits, other federal benefits and Social Security.
This was difficult, but President Trump made the correct decision.
In 2012, President Obama established DACA via what amounted to royal decree, using an Executive Order without input or consent from Congress. Yet the Constitution is clear: Congress, the direct elected Representatives of the people, is responsible for making laws, not the President.
A year earlier, Congress rejected legislation endorsed by President Obama that would have created a “pathway to citizenship” for millions of illegal immigrants. Instead of reaching out to negotiate, as our Founding Fathers intended, President Obama took it upon himself to create law on his own. His introduction of DACA was an unprecedented power grab, with little-to-no consideration paid to the Constitution and the rule of law.
Congress makes the law, and so President Trump is correct to ask Congress to fully review and act on the DACA issue.
Predictably, President Trump’s decision sparked a whirlwind of fierce criticism and fearmongering from special-interest groups, media-savvy politicians and the media. Unfortunately, these critics miss the bigger picture. Yes, DACA is an important issue that must be addressed, but it is just one part of a much broader, more serious problem.
America’s immigration system is broken and our nation’s laws are not being enforced. Our porous southern border makes it impossible for us to adequately control and regulate the flow of immigrants. Border security is also a vital national security issue, as we must know who is entering our country. Across the nation, the troubling existence of “sanctuary cities” undermines the rule of law, endangers hardworking Americans and gives illegal immigrants incentive to continue breaking the law. In a brazen affront to hardworking, law-abiding Americans, illegal immigrants are receiving millions of taxpayer dollars in welfare, healthcare and education benefits.
Clearly, comprehensive reform is needed to fix America’s broken immigration system.
The first, and most important, step is to secure our border, which is why this year I’ve helped pass more than $3 billion in funding to construct physical barriers along our southern border and increase other border security measures. We must also eliminate sanctuary cities, with the Senate taking action on the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (H.R. 3003) and Kate’s Law (H.R. 3004), which I fought to pass earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives. We must create a modernized work-visa program, implement a mandatory e-verify system, and establish a merit-based legal immigration system. Every future reform should be based on the rule of law.
We are proudly a nation of immigrants. My ancestors came from Europe and part of my wife’s family emigrated from Lebanon. Surprisingly, I was the first United States Congressman to speak at a citizenship ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in Charlotte and I continue to speak at these deeply moving ceremonies as often as my schedule allows. We should salute and respect those who play by the rules and seek to enter America legally.
What President Obama didn’t understand is that respect for the law is foundational to our freedoms, and bypassing the law for political expediency undermines our core values.
To keep American families safe, ensure prosperity and defend our freedoms, we must address the entirety of our broken immigration system. As Congress debates options, I will support legislation that secures our borders, ends sanctuary cities and ensures the rule of law.
Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks and credit unions.