On Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan told Journal Sentinel opinion writers and reporters that Congress needs to replace the Obama administration's program aimed at protecting some 800,000 young immigrants from deportation and to otherwise fix what is essentially a broken immigration system. He also said he hoped President Donald Trump would give Congress the time it needs to make that fix.
On Tuesday, Trump gave Ryan and his fellow legislators their deadline: March 5, 2018. And he urged them in a tweet.
We think ending the DACA program is a mistake. The Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy offered security for children who had been brought into this country through no decision of their own. Leaving them hanging by announcing an end before a new system is in place is cruel.
But we agree with Trump on this: It is now up to Congress to act, and we urge it to act quickly. Young immigrants deserve the protection that the DACA program provided and that's offered in several legislative pieces before it now, including the bipartisan DREAM Act of 2017.
As Ryan told us Friday, "A lot of these kids don't know any other home but this country so I think it's something that Congress needs to get on top of and fix." He also said the fix should be done "humanely" and could "give people some certainty and peace of mind."
He argued that the president held a similar view on the need to protect so-called DREAMer kids, and on Tuesday, the president said this: "I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents." Still, he added, "we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."
Ryan said his problem with DACA was with the way it had been implemented: It's Congress' job to provide legislation that would implement such a program, not the administration's.
On Tuesday, Ryan said in a statement, "It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president's leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country."
OK, so do it. It's not like this is a new issue or a surprise or that there is an absence of legislation. There are several bills in Congress now. And there is overwhelming public support for such legislation, as The Washington Post noted Tuesday, citing a Pew Research poll from November.
The problem is that Congress has failed time and again to fix the immigration system, something Ryan acknowledged in his Tuesday statement. It has had plenty of opportunities. Ryan says he would prefer to reform the system in a piecemeal fashion rather than in a large bill that would collapse under its own weight.
So here's your chance, Mr. Speaker: Start with DACA. There are bills awaiting action, popular support for the program and a six-month deadline. Congress, do your job.