If it were up to me, America would have borders open to basically everyone except incorrigible terrorists, and legal immigration levels high enough above the current caps that no one would have to bother to sneak in.
Congress, alas, doesn't agree with me. Despite pleas from George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and from a lot of corporate executives, newspaper editorial writers, and college and university presidents, the law-writers have, for at least a decade, not only have failed to enact comprehensive immigration reform, they've even declined, so far, to pass a narrower fix aimed at "dreamers" who were brought to America illegally as children. These people in some cases graduate from high school and even make their way into American colleges.
Obama dealt with the dreamers by unilaterally granting them a temporary exemption from deportation. That "deferred action for childhood arrivals" was a status well short of American citizenship or even permanent legal residence, but it was a step too far for attorneys general representing the states of Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia. In a letter to the federal attorney general, Jeff Sessions — who as a senator was an advocate of further restricting immigration — the state attorneys general set a September 5 deadline for the Trump administration to act or else face a legal challenge to the Obama deferred action program.
Trump's action this week to end the program, but to give Congress six months to help the "dreamers," is being widely denounced. "Cruel" is the word used by President Bill Clinton; by the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt; and by the president of Harvard, Drew Faust. They are focused on the "end the program" part of the announcement. But it seems to me that just as significant is the "give Congress six months" part of the announcement. If Congress actually does act to extend the program, Trump's action may turn out not to be "cruel" at all. Rather, it will help the dreamers by putting their presence here on firmer legal ground.
Meanwhile, coastal elites are lining up to denounce Trump and voice support for the dreamers. Bill Gates and Lloyd Blankfein weighed in. You don't have to be a lobbying genius to think that if you really want Congress to act on this in the next six months in the current political environment, having Faust, Gates, and Blankfein take a high profile, public leadership role on the topic might not exactly be the recipe for success.
One person who has played an exemplary role in all this is the former owner of the Washington Post, Donald Graham. Without a lot of self-congratulation or hyperventilation about cruelty, he's raised tens of millions of dollars in private scholarship money to send dreamers to non-fancy colleges. In a Facebook post, Graham expressed sadness at the end of the deferred action program but acknowledged that Trump "did show courage and some heart" by granting the six month reprieve, overruling hard-line advisers who wanted the program ended immediately. Here's hoping Congress will make the most of the opportunity and show some courage and heart of its own.