Earlier this week, President Donald Trump pledged to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Obama-era program provided greater protections and rights for “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children. The president argued that DACA was an over-extension of executive power and likely unlawful.
The announcement upended life for the roughly 750,000 DACA recipients who now fear they could be deported to countries they know little to nothing about. An array of business leaders, mayors, governors, and Democrats condemned the decision. Perhaps in response to the criticism, Trump later wobbled, acceding to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s request to tell the Dreamers that they don’t need to fear deportation.
Erik Paulsen (R.-Minn.) was uncharacteristically voluble about Trump’s DACA decision. In a video address, he said it was “important for a legislative fix to happen.”
Elsewhere, Paulsen said, “Our broken immigration system needs to be fixed, because it’s harming our economy and locking out the next generation of innovators.” He emphasized that Dreamers should have the opportunity to “be valuable contributors to our country.”
It’s a great message. It’s also totally inconsistent with Paulsen’s voting record.
According to Politics That Work, a political data organization, Erik Paulsen has never voted for “humane” immigration policies. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit that advocates for lower levels of immigration, gave Paulsen a 100 percent rating last year, indicating the strongest possible alignment with FAIR views.
For instance, Paulsen voted for HR 5759, the Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act of 2014. The act, which passed the House along a party line vote, was intended to prevent then-president Obama from softening the federal government’s approach toward undocumented workers.
He voted in favor of a 2015 amendment that prohibited undocumented immigrants from obtaining housing assistance. The following month, Paulsen voted against an amendment that would have provided for recognition of academic achievement in languages other than English.
Paulsen also opposes the rights of sanctuary cities, urban areas where local authorities limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officials.
Most importantly, in 2015, he voted in favor of an amendment that struck language from a bill requesting the DOD to admit immigrants covered under DACA. The following year, he voted in favor of an amendment that filed a brief with then-President Obama that opposed DACA.
The only reason Paulsen has suddenly reversed himself on DACA and the Dreamers is to distance himself from Donald Trump. Trump said that no work permits would be revoked for at least six months. Between now and then, however, Trump said he expects Congress to “legalize DACA” or else he will “revisit the issue.” This might mean that he’ll begin deportations or, in a less likely scenario, he might use his executive authority to extend DACA, blaming Congress for the failure to rescind it.
But voters in the Third Congressional District that Paulsen represents are politically moderate. If deportations begin next year, images and stories of families being torn apart will inspire their sympathy.
Protesters in Minneapolis have already expressed their anger at Trump’s decision, and protested in support of DACA recipients Tuesday. Demonstrations of this sort will likely multiply if Trump moves to deport people, and Paulsen – who is up for reelection next year – wants to be out of their crosshairs.
While it’s great that Paulsen is finally standing up for DACA recipients, it remains unclear what he really believes. If a Democratic president is elected in 2020, will he target DACA again? With any luck, we’ll never find out – and elect someone else to represent the Third Congressional District next year.
Featured image via YouTube.