Pope Francis: If Trump is "a good pro-lifer," he'll keep DACA

Lots of activity today on a policy that not only hasn’t changed yet, but which likely won’t change at all. On board with press on his return from a tour of Colombia, Pope Francis said he hoped that Donald Trump would allow his pro-life instincts to guide his decision on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Noting that he had not taken much time to study the issue, the pontiff said that protecting the family had to be the highest priority:


During a press conference Sunday aboard the papal plane from Colombia to Rome, Pope Francis said that though he is not familiar with how the decision to end DACA was made, he hopes it will be reconsidered as part of a pro-life ethic which defends the unity of families.

“I hope that it will be rethought a little, because I have heard the President of the United States speak as a pro-life man. If he is a good pro-life man, he understands that the family is the cradle of life, and unity must be defended. This is what comes to me,” Francis said Sept. 10.

“I have heard of this law. I have not been able to read the articles, how the decision was made. I don’t know it well,” he stated. “Keeping young people away from the family is not something that brings good fruit.”

Pope Francis gets very voluble on long flights back to Rome, and likes to engage in conversation with the press, which leads to some interesting outcomes. This is one of those occasions. Catholic media lit up with word that Francis had rebuked Trump for rescinding DACA and accused him of pro-life hypocrisy, which isn’t quite what the pope said. Francis even hinted at the nuance involved in US constitutional law:

“This law, which I think comes not from the legislature, but from the executive (branch) — if that’s right, I’m not sure — I hope he rethinks it a bit,” the pope said, “because I’ve heard the president of the United States speak; he presents himself as a man who is pro-life, a good pro-lifer.[“]


That is the main issue with DACA. The previous administration claimed “prosecutorial discretion” as a reason to halt enforcement of a duly created statute for a massively broad class of potential defendants. That encroaches on the authority of the legislature to create laws; the executive branch is supposed to enforce laws, not create or ignore them.

The main problem with all of this is that it’s largely moot. Trump has not ended DACA at all. All he’s done, Andrew McCarthy pointed out this weekend, is to extend the same program another six months while making it clear he’ll keep extending it until Congress passes a replacement program:

Contrary to the Gray Lady’s assertion — and as we explained this week — Trump has not canceled DACA. Nor is it being phased out. Trump has signaled that either it will be codified in law or he will continue the program by lawless executive action — as he is doing for the next six months, as he has done for the last eight months, and as his predecessor did for four years. …

Quite apart from the categorical amnesty, the most constitutionally offensive thing about DACA is its awarding of positive legal benefits to aliens — in particular, work permits. Besides being a blatant usurpation of congressional authority, the grant of a benefit has nothing to do with prosecutorial discretion. The doctrine rationalizes non-enforcement of the laws in individual cases; it does not manufacture legal entitlements for a class of beneficiaries — or at least it didn’t until Obama came along.

Now, prompted by Pelosi, Trump has reaffirmed Obama’s prosecutorial-discretion sleight of hand. In fact, Trump’s action is arguably worse — yet another instance of the folly of announcing policy via Twitter and its 140-character limits (including exclamation points!). The 2012 Department of Homeland Security guidance through which the Obama administration implemented DACA at least pretended that “requests for relief pursuant to this memorandum are to be decided on a case by case basis.” Trump’s tweet doesn’t even go through the motions. He sweepingly declares that his reprieve applies to “all” DACA beneficiaries, promising that they “have nothing to worry about — No action!”


The state of California hasn’t quite caught up to reality on this point, either. Attorney General Xavier Becerra took time out from threatening IMDB with criminal for publishing accurate birthdates in order to file suit against Trump’s executive order that doesn’t really do anything. In doing so, Becerra charges that Trump violated the Constitution by issuing an executive order that addresses a previous executive order:

Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s (HAH-vee-air Bah-sehr’-ah) lawsuit filed Monday makes similar legal arguments to a suit filed last week by 15 states and the District of Columbia. He’s joined in his separate suit by attorney generals from Maryland, Maine and Minnesota

The California lawsuit alleges the Trump Administration violated the Constitution and other laws when it rescinded the program.

I’d bet Becerra will get one federal judge to go along with that argument, but what will the injunction do? Order Trump to keep operating the program that, er, he’s continuing to operate?

Never mind acting rationally about this, I guess. It’s more an excuse for progressive emoting. Exhibit A is John Oliver, who gets the very first thing out of his mouth stupendously wrong, which sets the tone for the rest of this lengthy, tiresome, and utterly predictable segment. At least Pope Francis bothered to pick up some of the nuance on the issue before commenting on it publicly — and the humility to note his lack of preparation for the question. Oliver’s supposed to be the professional here, right?



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