The DACAnschluss: When Idealism and State Sovereignty Collide, the Result is a Threat to National Security
When Senator Chuck Schumer monkey-wrenched efforts to pass a continuing resolution, and pitched the U.S. government into a disruptive shutdown, he – seemingly inadvertently – highlighted how the policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has facilitated political warfare, against the United States, by foreign interests. Although DACA - crafted by the overly-idealistic Obama administration - was probably the work of well-intentioned individuals, it has become a cudgel for non-citizens to wield against American institutions, harming legally present individuals in the process. Ultimately, this political empowerment of illegally present voices leads to an erosion of the United States’ sovereignty by allowing a foreign population to influence the country’s decisions.
Schumer and his ilk, whether they realized it or not, were victims of foreign coercion. In 1938, Austria ceded sovereignty to neighboring Germany, in what was portrayed as a merger of cultures. Foreign voices have argued for a U.S. policy that is similarly capitulatory. For instance, former Mexican president, Vicente Fox, has argued on behalf of DACA beneficiaries remaining in the United States.[i] Even while in office, Fox, according to Jorge Castaneda - his one-time foreign minister - had identified a higher U.S. visa quota for Mexicans and increased transition of undocumented Mexicans already in the United States as core concepts in the U.S. – Mexican bilateral relationship.[ii] (One must wonder if Fox’s foisting of Mexican nationals on the United States represented an implicit admission of failure as a leader.) DACA is consistent with these foreign desires for U.S. policies that will act as safety valves.
The problem of undocumented, illegal immigration is not a new one, nor is Mexico unique in its contribution to this population. However, what Obama did in 2012, by creating DACA (and in 2014 with Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents), was to give a voice, in U.S. politics, to foreign nationals. Despite not being able to vote, these individuals have nonetheless involved themselves in national political campaigns.[iii] These individuals have also taken to the streets, in emotionally charged demonstrations (which have resulted in arrests of participants) and have demanded that lawmakers adjust their positions on immigration.[iv] Even individuals whose DACA status has expired have felt entitled to be publicly vocal in making demands for immigration reform. However, when they have been arrested, their sympathizers seem unable to comprehend why out-of-status malcontents might be subject to law enforcement action.[v] These two currents – participation within the political process and exertion of outside pressure, in the form of populist outbursts – find their confluence in an assault on sovereignty that is directed at influencing / coercing elected officials to account for the voices of those who they were not elected to represent.
If an informed electorate is necessary for a democracy to function, then DACA recipients further undermine U.S. sovereignty by demanding access to American academic institutions, denying citizens and legal permanent residents opportunities for educational advancement. Sub-federal entities have played along with the federal government’s policy. At least 20 states have offered “tuition equity” to students, regardless of those students’ legal status, and by charging only in-state tuition to students who not even (legally) in the country.[vi] Beyond simply opening their campuses to DACA students, institutions of higher education, which often benefit from federal grants, have attempted to become a political force on behalf of illegality. The University of California, led by Janet Napolitano (who, as a former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, should have a greater respect for immigration through legal channels), openly urged the U.S. administration to allow DACA students to continue their education.[vii]
Beyond simply limiting the intellectual advancement of the U.S. electorate – an impediment that has, arguably, led to the increasing histrionics of American political discourse – the presence of DACA-enabled students may actually raise national security concerns. Universities have conducted research on technologies which are subject to Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Allowing a foreign national (which is what DACA recipients are) access to this research may constitute a deemed export, in violation of the EAR.[viii] (Universities have historically argued against deemed export regulations.[ix])
Foreign state and non-state actors may view the DACA population as a useful pool from which to engage individuals for activities inimical to U.S. interests. Multiple foreign governments view diaspora populations as implements for advancement of those governments’ interests. China, Israel, and Russia are examples of countries that have exploited cultural and ideological affinities to enlist questionable and even illicit assistance from individuals beyond those countries’ borders.[x] The DACA population’s lack of citizenship and its displays of outright defiance toward the U.S. rule-of-law leaves in doubt which way DACA recipients’ loyalty will go when tested between two states. Non-state foreign actors – for instance transnational gangs such as MS-13 – may also benefit if they can exploit DACA recipients to gain a foothold within the United States.
Finally, foreign governments have made common cause with advocacy movements associated with immigration reform. For instance, CASA of Maryland, an activist organization, which has been a vocal proponent of DACA, has a history of fraternization with the unsavory Venezuelan regime of Hugo Chavez. CASA implemented a program, funded by a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, to encourage the formation of worker-owned cooperatives.[xi] In 2007, CASA’s then-executive director, Gustavo Torres, even expressed his hope that Venezuela’s then-ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez, would encourage the Venezuelan government to do more in assisting local social programs.[xii]
Schumer, in his bid for political prominence, did much more than simply, temporarily put the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of the American public who he was elected to serve. Rather, he endorsed a program – DACA – which does nothing less than facilitate threats to U.S. security and, ultimately sovereignty. DACA has emboldened a population - which has no standing in the American electoral process – to disenfranchise legitimate American voters by participating in an array of political actions which are meant to shape the government and influence policy. This same population also erodes U.S. elements of national power by claiming places – and potentially displacing citizen and legal permanent resident candidates – in institutions of higher education. Finally, the DACA population represents a potential fifth column for state and non-state actors seeking individuals with little allegiance to (and demonstrated animosity against) the U.S. government.
[i] Vicente Fox Quesada “Borders Can’t Protect Us” New York Times, November 30, 2017
[ii] Jorge G. Castaneda. “The Forgotten Relationship” Foreign Affairs, May / Jun 2003. Vol 82 Issue 3 p 67-81.
[iii] Ed Pilkington. “Dreamers on the Campaign Trail: We Cannot Vote, but We Do Have a Voice” The Guardian. January 25, 2016.
[iv] Rachel Siegel. “Thousands Rally Outside Capitol to Demand DACA Solution; Md. Lawmakers Arrested”, Washington Post. December 7, 2017
[v] Phil Helsel. “’Dreamer’ Applicant Arrested after Calling for Immigrant Protection” NBCNews. March 2, 2017.
[vi] Melissa Korn. “Some States Resist Offering Tuition Breaks to Undocumented Immigrants,” Wall Street Journal. July 29, 2015.
[vii] Rosanna Xia and Teresa Watanabe. “Speaking out for state’s ‘Dreamers’” Los Angeles Times, November 30, 2016.
[viii] U.S. Department of Commerce. “Deemed Exports” https://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/policy-guidance/deemed-exports (accessed January 22, 2018)
[ix] Shane Scott, “Universities Say New Rules Could Hurt U.S. Research,” New York Times, November 26, 2005
[x] Pierre Robes. “Dangerous Diasporas: How the Trump Administration’s Visa and Immigration Regulations Leave the United States Vulnerable to Foreign Intelligence Exploitation” Small Wars Journal. February 11, 2017
[xi] Alejandro Lazo, “Citgo Giving $1.5 Million to Maryland Charity; Venezuelan Firm Seeks to Help Immigrant Workers; Critics See Political motives,” Washington Post, 5 August 2008
[xii] Ann E. Marimow, “Montgomery Politician Rescinds Offer to Envoy,” Washington Post, 12 October 2007