Tony Sayegh: The right way forward for immigration in a Trump administration

It’s clear that the American public is beyond frustrated with Washington’s inability to fix our immigration system. It’s not just broken, it's incoherent.

By pointing out what the political class would-not or could-not acknowledge, President-elect Donald Trump has given us an opportunity to fix things properly. That should involve bold action on certain matters, and a measured response for others. If done correctly, the combination should keep America great for decades. What’s more, it need not involve presidential edicts or "executive actions."

Here are the key matters to consider. We have a hodgepodge of rules and regulations. Sometimes they’re enforced and sometimes not. Edicts from President Obama, together with sanctuary cities, conflict with our federal laws. The result means millions of undocumented immigrants live in limbo, with no realistic chance of deportation and no pathway to permanent legal status. Meanwhile, our southern border is porous, which, at the very least, means that government has little idea of who’s in the country. Worse still, dangerous criminals can, and do, enter the country illegally so threatening our safety.

First steps

Trump campaigned on the need to keep Americans safe. Certainly, that involves securing the border, with a wall or fence. Likewise, that also means deporting violent felons and other convicted criminals who pose a threat to our country.

On top of that, sanctuary cities -- where illegal immigrants live with impunity -- must end. If that means cutting federal law enforcement funding, so be it.

We need consistency in the application of our legal process, not a patchwork.

Acting quickly and decisively on these issues is not only a vital for safety, but it also shows the importance of the rule of law. From the beginning, our country was founded on that basis.

But in some cases we should pause before implementing mass deportations too rigidly. Front and center on that issue are the so-called DREAMers, the undocumented immigrants unwittingly brought to here by their parents. President Obama temporarily stayed deportation of the DREAMers, with some caveats. The individuals need to be free of felonies or significant misdemeanors, and should be enrolled in school, have graduated from high school or enlisted in the military.

In this case, nuance is superior to rigidity. The mass deportation of DREAMers wouldn’t be a smart move. Far better for President-elect Trump to forgo executive action and instead embrace a meaningful constitutional approach to reform. In short, it means working with Congress. Criminal aliens need to be removed and/or kept out. But at the same time, intelligent, industrious, and law-abiding DREAMers should be allowed to stay in this country and offered the chance to pursue a more permanent status.

When president, Trump can do things differently and correctly if he embraces Congress as a partner to enact a more long-term fix to our immigration problem. Conservatives just spent eight years railing against rule by executive order. Trump can send a powerful message if he doesn't follow the same path.

Far better reforms would be gained by working with allies. The good news is that Congressional Republicans have corrected course and now largely support the president-elect's agenda on the immigration issue.  They can lay the groundwork for a legislative effort that delivers key Trump campaign promises. Now he just needs to do what he's known for: Solving problems.

This is a country of laws, of governmental process, and a country of immigrants. Let’s embrace all three for a better America.