More than once, President Donald Trump has enticed Democrats and some moderate Republicans — and risked infuriating hard-liners in his base — by expressing an openness to overhauling the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system.
He did so again in a session at the White House with television news anchors Tuesday, saying he’d consider a compromise that included legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants, and then wondering aloud whether he should float the idea to Congress in his speech that night. He did not — but if he really wishes to bring about the “unity” and “renewal of the American spirit” he spoke of in his address, he should.
It is a fool’s game to guess whether the president will ultimately legalize or deport more of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants; he himself may have no firm idea what he intends. But if he wants to soothe this festering political and social wound, he is well positioned to do it. Having established himself as a hard-liner on illegal immigration and proposed tough new measures to stop it, he might well persuade fellow Republicans to accept a compromise on the millions of noncriminal immigrants already in the country.
A good place to start would be the question of what to do about “dreamers,” the 2 million or so undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children. There Trump has been more consistent. After initially suggesting he would scrap the Obama administration’s program granting them temporary protection from deportation, the new president has repeatedly expressed sympathy for the dreamers’ plight, making clear he is disinclined to target them for removal and telling the news anchors he would be open to forging a pathway to citizenship for them.
Fair enough, but will he have the courage of his apparent convictions? The test is whether he acts to dispel the uncertainty hanging over the heads of roughly 750,000 dreamers whose age, duration of residence in the United States and verified clean record enabled them to register for the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides work permits and temporary protection from removal. Registrants, who submit their names, addresses and other information, are now justifiably fearful that the government may use that data to track them down once their two-year DACA protections lapse. Hundreds of thousands of other eligible youngsters are unlikely to enroll given that peril.
Dreamers represent a pool of talent, brains and ambition that the United States should want to cultivate. Some 3,700 students in the University of California system are undocumented immigrants, and tens of thousands of dreamers are enrolled at other post-secondary institutions across the country. What possible benefit is there in deporting a promising cohort that is American in all but birth certificate?
With the stroke of a pen, Trump could extend the existing program, enabling dreamers to continue working, studying and living productive lives. He could go further by proposing permanent legal status or a path to citizenship for immigrants who, in many cases, have little memory of any country but the United States. That would lend weight to the president’s oft-stated assertions of his compassion.
Was President Trump’s speech to Congress a turning point or a head fake? The fact is, no one knows for sure. Less than 48 hours after the speech, a quick Google search for “Trump pivot” brings up 631,000 entries and counting of pure and absolute conjecture. What we know for certain is that Tuesday’s performance truly shone a spotlight on Trump’s dynamic range as a politician. It also proved that the White House staff, as currently constituted, can deliver big when it matters. Just knowing that to be true has been a major source of relief among Republicans everywhere, particularly those in Congress. And for voters who thought the president couldn’t possibly ditch his rally talk in favor of a sincere, polished address, well, that bar has been cleared.
Although Trump’s speech was received positively by 78 percent of those who watched it, according to a CNN/ORC poll, his critics were predictably quick to dismiss the speech as a one-off occurrence that didn’t mean much. Even so, they knew something significant had happened. You could almost feel the dread in their words. In a canned line obviously prepared before the speech, recently elected Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez declared,”This was Steve Bannon on steroids with a smile.” Others found fault in an individual pronouncement or in the turn of a phrase, but that just shows how the president can shape a national debate. Arguing over policy and priorities is different from dueling tweets and airing grievances. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., proclaimed, “The speech and reality have never been more detached.”
House and Senate Democrats just can’t accept that this administration really does mean what it says. The House Freedom Caucus hit the nail on the head, stating that “President Trump has worked tirelessly to keep his campaign promises: from undoing President Barack Obama’s jobs-killing regulatory regime, to taking action to secure our nation. The president reaffirmed his commitment to fully repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered, market-driven policy.” Similarly, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., hailed the president’s speech as a “home run.”
I think Trump gave the most consequential speech for Republicans since George H.W. Bush’s 1988 acceptance speech at the GOP convention in New Orleans. At that time, the political world did a double take and started seeing Bush as something other than the stereotype that had metastasized and nearly taken on a life of its own. If Trump’s speech teaches us anything, it’s that his presidency may very well hold more in store than some realized. He was articulate, passionate and above all else, credible. Ronald Reagan once asked, “How can a president not be an actor?” Well, Trump’s forte was in the reality television world, not as a true thespian. Still, he managed to put on a world-class performance.
It is time for the Legislature to repeal the faith-healing exemption to Idaho’s statute prohibiting the injury of children. Section 18-1501 of the Idaho Code penalizes conduct by “any person” that is likely to endanger the person or health of a child. This applies to parents but the statute has qualifying language that limits violations to rather egregious conduct. It was carefully crafted to limit governmental intrusion into the family setting.
However, the statute includes an exemption that has allowed some parents to refuse to provide readily available health care to their children, resulting in needless suffering and death. The exemption says that the “practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care to such child.” This language should be eliminated in order to protect some our most helpless and vulnerable citizens.
Adults can decide for themselves on healthcare matters. If they decide to forgo medical intervention for themselves for religious reasons, that is their prerogative. The state has an interest in safeguarding the health and safety of minors who cannot speak for themselves. Our laws have numerous protections for children without religious exemptions — marital age, child labor, ability to contract, and the like. In my estimation, the right to have basic life-saving healthcare trumps those protections.
A courageous young woman, Linda Martin, recently spoke out in a newspaper ad to urge the repeal of the faith-healing exemption. As a former member of a group that denies basic medical care to its youngest members, she spoke with eloquence and authority about the injury inflicted on sick children in the group. She closed with this statement: “This is not a freedom of religion issue: this is a right to live issue.” Amen.
Since at least the 1980s, when I served as Idaho Attorney General, the Legislature has passed numerous laws intended to support the right to life by using the power of the government to require women to carry a fetus to term. To my knowledge, none of those measures contained a religious exemption. The question arises as to whether the right to life of some children in our great state ceases upon birth. It is time for the Legislature to stand up for our children and to require that faith-healing parents provide basic healthcare to their children.
It has come to my attention that Senate bill SCR108 and House bill HCR18 address a possible Constitution Convention. Would you please hear the voice of the people in defending and protecting our Constitution? It is vital that we do not support any sort of Article 5 amendment to The Constitution. Doing so will put our rights and liberties in jeopardy. The Constitution should NOT be amended!