By Seth Ogilvie
“They need to put on their big boy pants, and they need to fix the problem.”
That sharp line wasn’t coming from just anywhere. It came from Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, and it cut toward Congress.
“This problem has to be solved. These are human beings,” said Wasden, a Republican, as he addressed Friday’s University of Idaho’s Symposium on Immigration Law and Policy. “Our entire immigration system is awful, and it must be fixed.”
Wasden’s comment came as a surprise to those who remember that in 2017, Wasden joined nine other attorneys general and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to threaten President Donald Trump’s administration with a lawsuit if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program continued.
Months after that threat and days after Wasden made his comments at University of Idaho, Trump announced on Twitter that “DACA is dead.”
Former President Barack Obama’s administration created the DACA program by a memorandum on June 15, 2012. That memo instructed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to spend less time and money on low priority cases, and allowed for people to apply for a two year period without deportation.
In an additional 2014 memorandum, the Obama administration created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded the DACA program. DAPA works a lot like DACA, but for parents of American citizens.
To receive the DACA reprieve, people need to have been under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, enter the United States before their 16th birthday, be in school or have graduated or completed a general education program. They also must pass a background check.
Trump planned to end the program in March, but DACA is currently still in existence as several cases move through the court system.
Idaho currently has 6,497 total DACA approved cases as of January. If DACA is indeed dead, the federal government will attempt to deport these people, separating them from friends and family in our state.
At the University of Idaho symposium on Friday, Wasden told a story of a deported friend.
“He was as American as I am or you are,” Wasden.
Still, Wasden said he believes Obama acted inappropriately with the creation of DACA. “It was false hope, because the next president has the same ability” to reverse Obama’s DACA decision.
“I’m on record saying Congress has to fix this problem,” said Wasden. “I don’t have a problem telling them face to face.”
When asked if he would go to Congress and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador’s office to demand a clean DACA bill — in other words, legislation dealing solely with childhood arrivals, without addressing a border wall, detention center funding, or other immigration issues — Wasden responded “absolutely.”
Wasden did not say when he has previously supported a clean DACA, but he claimed he had already said so on the record.
“This is a humanitarian issue,” Wasden said.