Political booby traps

It seems to me that the current administration in Washington is encountering what I figure to be “political booby traps.” To understand why I think this is the case, let’s look first at what a booby trap consists of. In general, a booby trap is a device or setup that is intended to injure or do harm to an unwary victim. The trap is usually triggered by some type of “trip wire” mechanism that activates the trap. This actuation may be any of a variety of means including the mere presence of or some action by the victim or even a timing device.

Regardless of the nature of the trap or the activating mechanism, the objective of a booby trap is to surprise the target, perhaps causing the victim to make an unwise or disastrous decision. For example, during the Vietnam War sharpened sticks, known as Punji sticks, were hidden alongside trails so when soldiers were fired on they sought cover by throwing themselves down on the ground by the side of the trail thus impaling themselves on the spikes.

Okay, this is all kinda interesting, but what does it have to do with today’s political environment, and in particular, what is a “political booby trap?” Well, booby traps are often laid by the side in a conflict that has been defeated or is in retreat with the object in mind of doing harm to the winning or victorious side. The same can be true in the political arena. Read on.

One of the issues currently of great interest in this country is known as DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA addresses the immigration status of those who were brought to this country illegally when they were children.

About four years ago Congress considered granting these people special consideration – a “de facto” form of amnesty – in what was termed “The Dreamers Act”. After considerable debate in Congress, this proposed change in immigration law failed to pass leaving these illegal (or undocumented) immigrants in violation of the law.

DACA came in to being by means of a Presidential Executive Order which was designed to circumvent existing immigration law by shielding those people who had been brought here as children from deportation providing they met certain qualifications.

Despite objections, including legal action, that an executive order cannot change existing law, DACA was implemented in 2012 and expanded in 2014. Some 800,000 individuals took advantage of the program and were granted a renewable two year certification of participation which allowed them to attend school, join the military, and get work permits, while providing immunity from deportation. Now here comes the booby trap.

A number of those two year certificates are now up for renewal – yep, this is the trip wire for a political booby trap. This cleverly contrived provision of DACA placed the current administration in a position of either granting extensions of expiring certificates, thus effectively approving the DACA program which it considers an unconstitutional overreach of executive power, or refusing to renew the certificates which would put hundred of thousands of young people in jeopardy of deportation.

Either choice would result in harmful backlash against the administration from some quarter. Quite a booby trap, doncha think? Kinda like choosing between being shot or being impaled on Punji sticks.

The administration’s decision on a six month moratorium for DACA has changed the situation a bit. It has maintained the position that laws cannot be bypassed or overturned by executive order. At the same time Congress is put on notice that if the provisions of DACA are desirable, a change in the existing immigration law must be made by legislative action. How about them apples?

You know, this particular booby trap is proving to be very effective in that the administration is under fire for both being anti-immigration and for being soft on immigration. Those who favor keeping DACA are supporting the concept that a president is not bound by the law and can change or ignore any provision(s) at will. Those who oppose DACA on constitutional grounds claim this is a nation of laws and not one of personal or political opinion masquerading as law.

Well, there are several more of these political booby traps just waiting to be triggered and it will be interesting to see how the administration handles them. One thing for sure, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. At least that’s how it seems to me.

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By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident.