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GOP arrives at crossroads choice of ‘mean’ & ‘compassion’

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My Republican friends (yes, I have them) loathe being called the party of mean people, and I completely understand why they feel that way.

What some see as mean, others see as principled. That’s particularly true with programs like Medicaid expansion in Florida, which many Republicans say costs too much and doesn’t work well enough.

I respect that point of view because it’s not looney, even if I don’t agree.

But when it comes to so-called Dreamers – the children of undocumented immigrants, many of whom came to the United States as infants and young children – we’re about to find out whether “mean” is stronger than “principled” among today’s Republicans.

In terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a six-month delay, President Trump is throwing this issue back into the lap of the Republican-controlled Congress. The GOP is on the clock to come up with a plan that will do one of two things:

It will either protect about 800,000 children of undocumented immigrants, or deport them – never mind that life in the United States is all many of those so-called Dreamers know.

Place your bets on what they’ll come up with.

There are plenty of Republicans who are horrified by what this could mean.

In a statement, Florida Gov. Rick Scott made it clear that while he opposes illegal immigration and sanctuary cities, “These kids must be allowed to pursue the American dream, and Congress must act on this immediately.”

That is a reasonable position.

But Scott had a hand in creating this mess because he supported Trump last year in the presidential campaign. We all remember how Trump was whipping hard-right Republicans into a frenzy over immigration. He managed to tie that issue into just about every problem in America.

Crime? Undocumented immigrants.

Economic struggles? Undocumented immigrants.

Family values? Not for undocumented immigrants.

The issue became the catalyst for Trump’s idiotic border wall with Mexico and his draconian immigration proposals. And because President Obama used executive action that led to DACA, the Trump administration – intoxicated by its own rhetoric – is determined to reverse the policy, no matter the damage.

Now, bug-eyed zealots like Iowa U.S. Rep. Steve King are threatening lawsuits over the delay in shutting down DACA, even tweeting that “former #DACAs will make great Peace Corps volunteers in their home countries.”

Never mind, Captain Deportation, that the United States IS the home country for many housands of the people you want to kick out of the land of the free – no matter where they were born.

This is all they know.

Yeah, if the forced ejection of these people from their homes and families comes to pass, it will make dandy footage on the nightly news.

If they lose this latest battle for sanity and compassion, Republicans can protest all they want about unfair labels on their party. They can scream ‘til the cows come home that they are principled, not mean.

They will be wrong.

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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