In June 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it was unilaterally rewriting the immigration laws of the United States with a policy President Obama called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The policy grants immunity from deportation to a class of illegal aliens who were brought as minors into the United States by their parents.
As per our constitution, the government of the United States consists of three branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The branch responsible for drafting federal laws is the legislative branch, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The executive branch is also involved, because the president can veto legislation passed by the House and Senate--although his veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in each chamber--and the executive branch enforces and administers the laws. Finally, the judicial branch becomes involved with legislation, because courts interpret and apply laws in litigation, and the constitutionality of even duly enacted law can be challenged in the courts.
So, although all three branches are at some point involved with lawmaking, drafting and passing legislation is solely the responsibility of our elected representatives in the House and Senate. In our constitutional system, the executive branch cannot unilaterally write the law. What President Obama did with DACA in 2012 was patently unconstitutional. The president himself publicly admitted several times that he did not have the authority to do what he ultimately did. In fact, you can watch Barack Obama repeat the same civics lesson I just gave you.
There have been half-hearted attempts to defend the constitutionality of DACA policy based on “prosecutorial discretion.” Prosecutorial discretion means that a prosecutor does not have to file charges against everyone who might be guilty of an offense. Suppose a young person is arrested for driving under the influence, but has no prior offenses, a good academic record, and comes from a good family, so the DA decides not to ruin his life over one mistake. That’s prosecutorial discretion.
But if a state attorney general were to say, “I understand that current law states that anyone with a blood alcohol level of .08 is intoxicated for purposes of operating a motor vehicle, but from now on only those with a blood alcohol level of .12 will be prosecuted,” that is not prosecutorial discretion. That is an unconstitutional re-writing of the law, a usurpation of the function of elected state legislators. That is lawlessness, and that is the DACA case.
Those who apply for and receive DACA status are not just granted amnesty from deportation, they are effectively legalized, given work permits, and in some cases given permission to travel abroad and re-enter the United States. This is not “prosecutorial discretion.” This is executive implementation of the “Dream Act,” which failed to pass congress on two different occasions four years apart. In other words, your elected representatives did not pass the “Dream Act” but President Obama “enacted” it anyway. It is difficult to conceive of anything more unconstitutional and illegal than DACA.
So along comes President Donald Trump. And although he ran as an immigration hawk (to put it mildly), Trump did nothing about DACA for almost 8 months. Finally, several states announced they would file suit after Labor Day to invalidate DACA if the president did not stop it. So, on September 5, the president announced that DACA would be discontinued in 6 months. The purpose for the six-month grace period was to allow congress time to legislatively address the issue.
According to reports, the Great Negotiator will not (as I certainly would) use the demand for DACA legislation as leverage to forward his own immigration agenda: funding for the wall and passage of the merit-based immigration system proposed by senators Cotton and Purdue. He was faced with the prospect of a federal judge ending the program immediately, or being able to wind down the program over the course of six months and allow congress to use that time to pass a law. He said, "I have a love for these people, and now hopefully congress will be able to help them, and do it properly." Given the situation, Trump’s decision was fair and reasonable, and represents a turning away from lawlessness and a return to constitutionality.
So naturally the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not like it:
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is concerned about the impact that the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may have on the lives of 800,000 young men and women in the United States, also known as “dreamers.”
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The end of the DACA program will bring anxiety and insecurity into the lives of those who live in the communities where our churches minister. Many of our own young church leaders and members, and even some of our young pastors, are dreamers—young men and women who bought deeply into the American dream.
We pray for wisdom and understanding for U.S. leaders as they seek a solution, and we pray that the solution will be imbued with God’s grace and mercy. We pray that the dreamers feel the hand of God leading them forward and the love of their brothers and sisters in Christ. We, as a Seventh-day Adventist Community, will continue to pray and support all those who dream of a better life.
I dream of a better life. Will the SDA Community support me if I rob a bank to fund my better life? Or is it only certain classes of people the Church supports in breaking the law to achieve a better life?
The NAD seems also to endorse the lawlessness of the previous president and, worst of all, to condemn the president who wants to return our nation to a government of laws and not of men.
Some would say that the NAD’s no-law-grace-only approach to immigration mirrors the false gospel frequently taught in many NAD Adventist Churches. Is that a coincidence, or does our politics follow logically from our theology?
We are told that our country will “repudiate every principle of its constitution,” but is it too much to ask that the NAD not promote this sad process?