Beyond the humanitarian effects, eliminating DACA would be a crisis for the business community and a public-relations nightmare for the administration and Congress. Trump has come under heavy pressure not to do it in recent days—in personal calls from senior Republican lawmakers and business heavy hitters, and in a full-court press from activists across the political spectrum, such as a Wednesday letter signed by numerous leading conservative evangelical Christians.
“Donald Trump is driving the Republican Party into the one place they tried to avoid—being blamed for the government hunting down and deporting kids,” a liberal immigration advocate told me. “He’s pointing a gun at his own head: ‘I’m going to shut down the government unless I get a border wall, and then I’m going to start deporting Dreamers!’”
But immigration restrictionists, of course, will rejoice if Trump revokes DACA. They will have effectively forced Trump to keep his promise to them—apparently against his own preferences. “He’s been on the record countless times [in favor of] DACA, and now he’s forfeited leadership on the issue,” a conservative immigration-reform advocate told me. “Shouldn’t he be [upset] about that?”
The ACLU, among many other observers, suspects that Trump’s own attorney general played a role in the conservative AGs’ scheme to box Trump in. The civil-rights group has filed a public-records request to see whether the Department of Justice coordinated with the state attorneys to create next week’s deadline. In a June interview on Fox News, Sessions, who was the leading voice for cracking down on illegal immigration when he was in the Senate, said he welcomed the state AGs’ lawsuit: “I like it that our states and localities are holding the federal government to account, expecting us to do what is our responsibility to the state and locals, and that is to enforce the law.” If the suit does go forward, many expect Sessions’s DOJ would not defend DACA, but other groups would intervene to do so.
Most Republican lawmakers desperately do not want to deal with this issue given their already-packed fall legislative calendar. But if there is a bright side to this crisis for DACA proponents, it is that Congress might finally bring itself to provide what the activists have always sought: a permanent, legislative solution for the Dreamers.
“Republicans are going to be on the hook for this. They control the House and Senate. It’s going to be their problem to solve,” said Moran, who worked on immigration in the Obama White House and on the staff of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. If you want to protect Dreamers, “There’s nothing else you can do except pass the bill.”