Pelosi: Dems may oppose any border measures in DACA fix

Pelosi: Dems may oppose any border measures in DACA fix
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned this week that Democrats might oppose any new border enforcement as part of legislation to prevent the deportation of young immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Pelosi has previously emphasized that Democrats would support some new security measures — but not a border wall — in a deal to protect those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era initiative that President Trump scrapped last month. 

But at an immigration rally in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Pelosi said she’s given the keys to the negotiations to Democrats in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other minority groups, some of whom are pushing for a “clean” Dream Act. As a result, Pelosi suggested, the Democrats may align behind a DACA fix that would exclude all new border enforcement measures.

“I’ve asked the Hispanic Caucus, all of the caucuses, to say, ‘What is it do [we] think would be appropriate?’ Some people suggested roads, things like that,” Pelosi said.

“But again this isn't coming from up high; this is coming from down low. What are the things that we can accept, and maybe it's nothing,” she said.

Last month, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.) dined with Trump at the White House, where they agreed to the outline of a deal combining legal protections for immigrations brought to the country illegally as children with tougher security measures. The Democrats emphasized that Trump’s border wall is a nonstarter.

That deal appeared endangered this month, however, when the White House presented a series of hard-line security measures the administration wants added to any DACA package. The list includes a number of provisions that are anathema to the Democrats, including Trump’s border wall and the hiring of additional interior enforcement agents to step up deportations.  

Pelosi on Wednesday said Democrats would “never” accept those proposals, accusing the White House of trying to leverage the Dreamers in order to spike deportations. But she emphasized Democrats are open to “some” new border security “that does not include increased reinforcement internally in our country.”  

“It’s un-American, and we will fight that,” she said.

Pelosi’s new suggestion that Democrats will oppose any new enforcement provisions may be designed to counter Trump’s approach — a case of each side laying out their partisan wish lists ahead of more detailed compromise negotiations. Or it could be a signal that Democratic leaders are moving toward a strategy — championed by Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) — of insisting on a clean DACA fix as part of end-of-the-year budget negotiations, when GOP leaders will need Democratic votes to prevent a government shutdown.

For years, immigration reform has been a thorn in the side of GOP leaders, who have largely refused to touch the issue for fear of highlighting internal divisions within their party. But with Trump urging Congress to act on DACA, leaders are vowing to do just that. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDebate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 Liz Cheney faces a big decision on her future MORE (R-Wis.) has formed a 10-member Republican working group to forge a path forward on DACA. Members of the group, consisting of both immigration reformers and hard-line enforcement proponents, have repeatedly declined to discuss what progress, if any, has been made.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said the Republicans want to address the issue before the March 5 deadline Trump set for ending DACA. But he did not say precisely when. 

Pelosi this week characterized Trump’s decision to rescind DACA as “heartless,” but also said she’s confident the president will follow through on his promise to help the participants legislatively.

“I trust he will honor that commitment because the American people want him to do so,” she said in Los Angeles. "We must get this done by the end of the year."