Kevin Abel, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Rep. Karen Handel’s suburban Atlanta seat, released a new campaign ad this week that takes aim at President Donald Trump’s handling of an Obama era program that is shielding young immigrants from deportation.
In his 30-second online ad, Abel indirectly refers to how Trump has moved to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Abel, who backs creating a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, also discloses in the ad that he himself is an immigrant. He came here from South Africa when he was 14.
“I am an immigrant and running in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District in part as a reaction to your holding DACA kids hostage,” the Sandy Springs businessman says directly into the camera. “I approved this message, sir, because America was a better, more decent and kind place before you.”
Started in 2012, DACA grants renewable two-year deportation deferrals and work permits to young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before turning 16 and who have no felony convictions. Applicants must have their fingerprints taken, submit to background checks and provide numerous records.
In September, Trump announced he was rescinding DACA, giving Congress until March 5 to come up with an alternative. Washington lawmakers were unable to reach a compromise by then. Trump’s order now remains tied up in federal court amid legal challenges.
In moving to cancel DACA, Trump accused President Barack Obama of making an “end run” around Congress when he created the program, “violating the core tenets that sustain our republic.” Obama has countered that his action was based on a well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, used by both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Two of Abel’s Democratic primary opponents weighed in on the fate of DACA Monday at a forum organized by the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon at Heritage Sandy Springs. Bobby Kaple, a former television news anchor who lives in Milton, proposed making DACA protections permanent.
“The president’s decision to end DACA is not only reckless, but it is cruel,” he said. “It is important that whoever is elected to this seat and whoever is elected to the Congress in general in November pledges that they will make permanent the protections of DACA for those who are currently hanging in limbo, wondering if they will be deported to a country they have never known.”
Like Abel, Steven Griffin, a Sixth District resident and a former CDC policy coordinator, supports providing DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship.
“These children are just as American as any one of us,” he said. “They know no other home, so to send them away would be inhumane in the extreme. And it is something for which history would judge us harshly, and rightly so.”
A fourth Democratic candidate, Lucy McBath, did not attend the forum, but she released a statement through a campaign aide.
“The failure of President Trump and the Republican Congress to fix our broken immigration system is one of the most tragic results of the toxic culture in Washington,” McBath said. “Children and families are being used as political pawns, instead of being treated as people deserving of human dignity. When I am in Congress, I will be a leading voice to put partisan fighting aside and pass comprehensive immigration reform that protects our communities and treats everyone fairly and with dignity, whether you’re an American, an aspiring American or a child brought to this country by your parents.”
Handel issued a brief statement through her office, saying simply: “The Democrats have a primary, and we will leave them to it.”