‘Dreamer’ deadline passes by without clear path forward

‘Dreamer’ deadline passes by without clear path forward
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE’s deadline for Congress to craft a deal for so-called Dreamers came and went Monday, and its anticlimactic passage is a clear indication that any legislative action on immigration is unlikely before November’s elections.

The official end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program brought with it name-calling and protests, but little certainty that Congress will move forward on the issue.

Dreamers — immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as minors — protested outside the Capitol, but they were commemorating a date that no longer holds the political urgency of a hard deadline.

A California court blocked the administration’s order to end DACA, allowing some members of congressional leadership to officially kick the can down the road.

“There is no deadline on DACA,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump talk riles advocates on both sides of gas tax House GOP pushes hard-line immigration plan as Senate deals fail Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE (R-Calif.) said after the court’s decision.

Four separate DACA bills failed to reach the 60-vote threshold in the Senate in February, leaving only a conservative Republican-only House bill introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteProgressive group targets GOP moderates on immigration Florida shooting reopens CDC gun research debate Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March MORE (R-Va.) in the legislative pipeline. Conservatives want a vote on that measure, but it doesn’t appear to have the support to pass the lower chamber.

Trump has used the following weeks to blame Democrats for the impasse, and Democrats have responded in kind.

“It’s March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. Gave them 6 months, they just don’t care. Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!” Trump tweeted Monday.

“The president created this crisis. The White House can say anything they want, but reality is they created this crisis six months ago,” said Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarProgressive group targets GOP moderates on immigration Trump’s vanity wall is biggest obstacle to protecting Dreamers Texas GOP lawmaker: Trump wall 'expensive and least effective’ security plan MORE (D-Calif.), one of the top promoters of a bipartisan House bill on DACA.

When Trump set the deadline in September, he created a cliff where thousands of DACA recipients would lose their benefits each day. That shifted Congress into high gear on a search for a legislative replacement for the Obama-era program.

Congress stalled in its effort to legislate on the matter, and the court injunction forced the Trump administration to keep granting renewals to existing DACA recipients whose two-year permits expire.

But the injunction left younger Dreamers who would’ve aged into DACA unprotected, and existing beneficiaries could see gaps in their coverage — risking losing their jobs and being deported — as the Department of Homeland Security adjudicates their applications.

The base legislation to replace DACA was written well before Trump’s order canceling the program.

The DREAM Act, the bill that gave Dreamers their moniker, had in one way or another been in the pipeline since 2001, when it was moved to the bottom of the pile following 9/11.

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures MORE (R-S.C.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (D-Ill.) quickly picked up the DREAM Act in the fall and added border security provisions designed to attract Republican votes and Trump’s acquiescence.

In a January meeting, Trump panned the Graham–Durbin agreement, used coarse language to refer to African countries, El Salvador and Haiti, and bolstered the hopes of immigration hawks like Goodlatte.

“The president is the one who issued veto threats to bipartisan efforts, which have complicated the issue,” said Aguilar.

Liberal supporters of a DACA fix are incensed by what they see as an administration that constantly moved the goal posts on a potential deal, all but ensuring no legislation would ultimately pass.

“Donald Trump purportedly gave Congress six months to codify DACA into law, while simultaneously ensuring that a deal never materialized,” said Juan Escalante, a Venezuelan DACA recipient and communications manager for America’s Voice, a progressive immigrant rights advocacy group.

“DACA renewals are still being processed thanks to multiple courts intervening on the matter, but this is not a permanent solution. Trump’s deportation force will continue to prey on Dreamers whose DACA benefits lapse even if [they] find themselves in the midst of a renewal process,” added Escalante.

Conservatives who sought a solution are equally frustrated, but feel there’s plenty of blame to go around.

“We should’ve gotten it done. One way or the other we should’ve resolved it. To me the differences are not that great at all,” said Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingLawmakers call for withdrawal of Trump proposal that could impact 9/11 responders' health care GOP reps demand release of 'shocking' surveillance memo Top Intel Dem: Lewandowski refused to answer questions in testimony MORE (R-N.Y.)

King added that he never expected to see Democrats agree to give $25 billion to fund Trump’s proposed border wall, just as he never expected the White House to accept a plan that gave 1.8 million Dreamers a path to citizenship.

“These two key components have been reached. To me it should not be that difficult to close the deal,” he said.

But the White House deal that included those two pillars also included changes to family reunification visas — a stalwart of the American immigration system dating back decades — and the diversity visa lottery.

Those issues became a hot topic after Trump allegedly disparaged immigration from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations in the January meeting with Graham and Durbin.

Democrats say that deep changes to the immigration system, as laid out in past comprehensive immigration reform bills, could only come if Congress addressed the legal status of all 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that it is “pathetic” that Congress had failed to legislate on DACA after Trump provided them a deadline and a path.

“It’s absolutely terrible that Congress has failed to act,” said Sanders. “The president gave Congress six months and he also gave them a plan. He gave them four pillars that he wanted to see in legislation — legislation and principles that the majority of members of Congress have supported in the past.”

Aguilar dismissed the criticism, saying the White House and Republican House leadership never intended to accept a bipartisan deal.

“It’s just laughable, it really is. Republicans control the Senate and the House. This really falls at the doorstep of Speaker [Paul] Ryan, who has basically given the president a vote on the floor of the House.”