Democrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration

Democrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration
© Camille Fine

As a government funding deadline approaches on Jan. 19, it’s an open question whether Democrats will go to the mattress over immigration policy. More specifically, if they will shut down the government over the issue of whether to provide amnesty to 800,000 individuals covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

After excoriating Republicans for shutting down the government in 2013, a growing number of Democratic lawmakers have announced that they are digging in their heels, refusing to support any spending bill unless it comes with amnesty.

They are doing so in the face of Republican willingness to make a deal. In a remarkable 50-minute negotiation, broadcast to the nation, Trump brought Republicans and Democrats to the White House and implored them to come to an agreement.

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The terms Republicans have laid out — an end to chain migration, construction of a wall along the southern border, and border enforcement and action against sanctuary cities, among them — poll incredibly well.

 

Ironically, these were once terms that many Democrats supported. Indeed, Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWith lives at stake, Congress must start acting on health care To make the House of Representatives work again, make it bigger Reforms can stop members of Congress from using their public office for private gain MORE (D-N.Y.), currently leading the charge for Democrat DACA demands, formerly sponsored bills increasing immigration enforcement on the border, and in 2006, voted for a border wall.

Schumer wasn’t alone. In 2006, he was joined by 25 additional Senate Democrats in voting for a border wall, including Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThis week: Senate tries to avoid landmines on massive spending bill Dems to challenge Kavanaugh for White House records Democrats question if Kavanaugh lied about work on terrorism policy MORE (D-Calif.), Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaC-SPAN forced into 7-second delay after caller's racist tirade against Obama Judge dismisses Bevin lawsuit against Kentucky Medicaid activists Primary challenge to Trump? It could help him in 2020 MORE (D-Ill.), Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBiden endorses first Latina attorney general candidate in Arizona Bernie Sanders socialism moves to Democratic mainstream Biden: Aretha Franklin was 'part of the soul of the civil rights movement' MORE (D-Del.), and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton to headline trio of DNC fundraisers: report Allegations of ‘Trump TV’ distract from real issues at Broadcasting Board of Governors Chelsea Clinton: Politics a 'definite maybe' in the future MORE (D-N.Y.).

The 2006 bill authorized “two layers of reinforced fencing and installation of additional physical barriers” to ports of entry along the southern border. In 2013, the bill sponsored by Schumer authorized an additional 700 miles of fencing and technology along the U.S.-Mexico border, and devoted $40 billion a decade to strengthen enforcement along the border.

All these policies sound suspiciously like what President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE is asking for.

So, why do congressional Democrats oppose these measures now?

Democrats, in a large part, have been captured by the radical left-wing activists of their party, who are demanding nothing less than full amnesty for DACA recipients. As Vox’s Dara Lind writes, “Democrats have come to defer to organized immigration activists in a way they didn’t 10 years ago, or even during the early years of the Obama administration ... the party has moved substantially to the left on the issue of immigration enforcement.”

Center for American Progress President Jennifer Palmieri, who served as aide both to Hillary Clinton and President Obama, released a memo stating that congressional Democrats must “refuse” to vote for “Republican spending bills that do not offer a fix” for DACA recipients.

Angela Padilla, policy director for the liberal group Indivisible, took it further in saying “a vote for any spending bill on Jan. 19 is a vote to deport the dreamers.”

As another left-wing activist put it, the progressive immigration movement is “laser-focused on Jan. 19 as a do-or-die moment.”

“No wall, nope,” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump lauds ICE at White House event The Hill's Morning Report — Trump showcases ICE ahead of midterm elections 2020 hopefuls skeptical of criminal justice deal with Trump MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters last week, adding that “spending billions and billions of dollars on this wall because of a political promise and a campaign promise is ridiculous.”

Feinstein, who was originally a vote for compromise, has changed her demand to a “clean” vote on DACA — essentially, no deal but amnesty.

These positions leave no room for compromise on DACA. For Democratic activists, it is all or nothing.

Unfortunately, recent high-profile news stories have highlighted the dangers of the policies the activist Democrat base is promoting. The shooting of Kate Steinle by a repeat offender who was protected by San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy made national headlines. Two recent terrorist attacks in New York — the Manhattan truck attack on Halloween and the failed suicide bombing attempt at the Port Authority — both involved attackers who benefited from liberal immigration policies.

Nevertheless, the liberal wing of the Democrat party is assigning amnesty as a definitional moment for Democrats. One liberal opinion blogger threw down the gauntlet: “It’s long past time for Democrats in Congress to abandon the old rules of political civility.”

This week, Democrats will have a choice. Compromise with Trump on issues they have for years supported, or cave to the liberal wing of their base and shut down the government over amnesty for illegal immigrations.

As Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump showcases ICE ahead of midterm elections Sentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (R-Ark.) said, “I don’t expect a government shutdown, I don’t want one. But if Democrats want to shut down the government because they can get amnesty for illegal immigrants, they’ll have to explain that to the American people.”

Rachel Bovard (@RachelBovard) is the senior director of policy for The Conservative Partnership, a nonprofit group headed by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint aimed at promoting limited government.