‘Dreamer’ deadline passes by without clear path forward

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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test 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.

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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 McCarthyJudge throws out House GOP lawsuit over proxy voting Republicans fear disaster in November Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker 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 GoodlattePress: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself USCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids 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 AguilarHouse passes legislation to create Smithsonian Latino museum House panel approves amendment barring DACA deportations Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs 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 GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (R-S.C.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic 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) KingCheney clashes with Trump Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney On The Money: 3 million more Americans file for unemployment benefits | Sanders calls for Senate to 'improve' House Democrats' coronavirus bill | Less than 40 percent of small businesses have received emergency coronavirus loans 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.”