In short, DACA is morally right, legally sound and fiscally smart policy. It was also the only humane choice Mr. Obama had in the face of Congress’s failure to pass any meaningful immigration reform in the last two decades.
If all that weren’t enough, DACA remains overwhelmingly popular among Americans of all political stripes. Polls put its approval rating at roughly double that of President Trump himself. Even the Chamber of Commerce, usually a reliable backer of the Republican legislative agenda, called the decision to end DACA “contrary to fundamental American principles.”
The only bad thing that could be said about DACA is that, because it was a presidential memorandum, it was always vulnerable to being undone by a shortsighted administration playing to its base.
Now that that has happened, 800,000 people — all of whom gave their personal information and immigration status to the government, believing it would not be used against them — face the prospect of being shipped back to a country they may have no connection to or even remember.
This wouldn’t be a concern if Congress had done its job and passed the Dream Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for people brought to this country as children, and which has kicked around Capitol Hill for 16 years. Even though it has been stymied mainly by Republican opposition at every turn, it’s still theoretically on the table. But there’s little sign the dwindling Republican moderates in Congress have the stomach to confront their party’s nativist core. Mr. Trump called on Congress to act, but didn’t have the courage to tell it what he wanted it to do.
Contrast that with President Obama’s willingness to defend a policy that has always had detractors. “Ultimately, this is about basic decency,” Mr. Obama wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated.”
Mr. Trump has no good rejoinder. That’s partly because there isn’t one and partly because, as is so often the case, he doesn’t fully understand the scope of what he’s done. One would hope that the widespread outrage at Tuesday’s announcement, and the impending suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who’ve done nothing but try to become contributing members of society, might impress it upon him.