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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 SchumerChuck SchumerGraham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  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 FeinsteinMurkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade Democrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett MORE (D-Calif.), Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump is cruising for a bruising State lawmaker Elizabeth Fiedler discusses the top issues for Pennsylvania voters Joe Biden's transit plan: Party like it's 2009 MORE (D-Ill.), Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Trump campaign eyes election night party at his sold-out DC hotel Harris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' MORE (D-Del.), and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Hillary Clinton tweets 'vote them out' after Senate GOP confirm Barrett CNN: Kayleigh McEnany praised Biden as 'man of the people' in 2015 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 admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote 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 HarrisHarris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg The painstaking, state-by-state fight to protect abortion access 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 CottonTom Bryant CottonCotton mocks NY Times over claim of nonpartisanship, promises to submit op-eds as test Barrett fight puts focus on abortion in 2020 election COVID outbreak threatens GOP's Supreme Court plans 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.