President Trump is setting in motion Tuesday the worst defeat for the immigration-control cause since President George H.W. Bush signed into law the 1990 Immigration Act, doubling U.S. immigration quotas. But while the elder Bush understood what he was doing, Trump does not. The 1990 law operated precisely as its authors intended and expected. Today’s immigration actions will produce results almost directly opposite of those advertised. It will lead to more and larger amnesties in the future, and then to larger and less-controlled immigration flows after that.
President Obama issued the order known as DACA (“deferred action on childhood arrivals”) in 2012 after failing to achieve his hopes of a broader amnesty. Obama himself had repeatedly denounced the concept as beyond presidential power. To quote only one example, from July 2010:
There are those in the immigrants’ rights community who have argued passionately that we should simply provide those who are [here] illegally with legal status, or at least ignore the laws on the books and put an end to deportation until we have better laws ... I believe such an indiscriminate approach would be both unwise and unfair. It would suggest to those thinking about coming here illegally that there will be no repercussions for such a decision. And this could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration. And it would also ignore the millions of people around the world who are waiting in line to come here legally. Ultimately, our nation, like all nations, has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship. And no matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable.
Back when he made those remarks, Obama was hoping to pass a statute, the "Dream Act,” that would fully legalize the people ultimately protected by DACA. But the Dream Act stalled in the new Republican Congress elected in November 2010. Negotiations with Republican leaders to produce a more comprehensive immigration reform failed.