Sen. Portman, your Dreamer constituents need solutions, not stunts

Sen. Portman, your Dreamer constituents need solutions, not stunts
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On immigration, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators look for possible way to end shutdown GOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight MORE (R-Ohio) has a track record of playing Washington games instead of actually working to pass legislation. Apparently, he thinks Ohioans are too naive to notice.

Take the Senate debate last week over the fate of America’s Dreamers. For six years, these young, undocumented Americans relied on DACA for legal work permits and protection from deportation.  Late last year, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE cancelled DACA, passing responsibility to Congress, and threw their lives into limbo.   

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When the Senate finally took up legislation to address this, Sen. Portman voted against the two bipartisan amendments that had any chance of passing. He voted in favor of Trump’s radical proposal that contained the wish-list of extreme anti-immigration groups. This amendment, of course, failed miserably.    

Had Portman and a handful of others supported the Rounds-King or McCain-Coons amendments, these bipartisan Dreamer protections would have passed and advanced the debate.

But of course, he did not. Instead, after voting against Dreamers, Senator Portman turned to Washington-honed political games.   

The votes on all three amendments had barely been tallied, and the debate wrapped up, when a press release arrived from Senator Portman’s office. “Thune, Portman, and Moran Introduce Legislation to Enhance Border Security and Codify DACA Protections,” it announced. Their proposal was to extend legal status — but not citizenship — to existing DACA beneficiaries in exchange for spending $25 billion on border security.   

The press release arrived after the floor debate was over.  It was an obvious and lame attempt to provide cover for Portman’s votes against Dreamers.   

The thing is, Ohioans didn’t send Portman to Washington to issue press releases. He’s supposed to be there to do his job. After first sending mixed messages to his Dreamer constituents — who, yes, pay taxes that support his salary — he then voted against the only amendments to protect Dreamers that had a chance of passing.

As Jose Mendez of DreamActivist Ohio put it, “Today, Senator Portman signed my Deportation Order.”     

Not only were Portman’s votes a slap in the face to hardworking, contributing Ohioans with DACA, but they were also an affront to the Ohio universities, businesses, and faith leaders who have been calling for a Dreamer solution for months — as well as the 81 percent of Americans who agree.

This isn’t the first time Senator Portman chose to play Washington games instead of helping to advance solutions.  In 2013, he pulled a similar stunt during the Senate comprehensive immigration reform debate, apparently assuming Ohioans were too disconnected to know it.   

After voting against the bipartisan immigration bill, Portman published an op-ed attempting to explain his position. He expressed support for immigration reform, but wanted to strengthen E-Verify provisions contained in the Senate bill. E-Verify is a federal system employers can use to verify whether a new hire is authorized to work in the United States.   

And this is where the plot thickens. Portman actually had a chance to have his specific E-Verify concerns folded into the underlying bill, and he rejected it.  As immigration lawyer David Leopold explained at the time:

“Senate colleagues gave Portman a chance to include his E-Verify piece as part of a larger amendment that was guaranteed to pass. He turned their offer down because he wanted the glory of a separate vote on his piece that never came. His own party blocked votes on amendments, and he lost his chance.”

Portman has been in Washington a long time. He knows that making laws means making compromises. No bill will ever be “perfect” to any one person, because 100 senators and 435 House members — with strongly-held, diverse opinions — have a shot at shaping it.  If the good outweighs the bad, from a particular legislator’s vantage point, the vote should be yes.

There are no press releases or op-eds Sen. Portman could write that would explain away his votes against Ohio Dreamers last week. Also, there are Ohioans who are paying attention and tired of his political games.  

Lynn Tramonte is the deputy director of America’s Voice, and the director of America’s Voice Ohio.