Both sides afraid to act on DACA
After clearly stating that as president he had no power to change immigration law, then-president Obama went ahead in 2012 with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Obama himself referred to DACA as his “action to change the law,” a power vested in the legislature, not the executive.
In 2010, Obama told an audience of amnesty proponents that he’s “not king” and “can’t do these things just by myself.” In 2011, he explained further, “that he couldn’t “just bypass Congress and change the (immigration) law myself. … That’s not how a democracy works.” And in 2012, he did it anyway.
Then-presidential candidate Trump campaigned on ending DACA, and in September, he announced his decision to end DACA after giving Congress six months to pass it into law. Passing DACA or some equivalent into law is perfectly within the purview of Congress.
Unsurprisingly, Congress has done nothing, and now it looks like another government shutdown showdown is in the offing. Both parties are paralyzed and unwilling to act because they fear being blamed no matter what course of action they take. The result is inaction.
Concern is growing in both parties that a clash over the fate of Dreamers will trigger a government shutdown this December.
House conservatives have warned Speaker Paul Ryan against lumping a fix for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors into a year-end spending deal. They want him to keep the two issues separate and delay immigration negotiations into 2018 to increase their leverage — which both Ryan and the White House consider reasonable.
But many liberal Democrats have already vowed to withhold votes from the spending bill should it not address Dreamers, putting Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York in an awkward spot if they don’t go along.
Democrats know Republicans need their votes to fund the government past the current Dec. 8 deadline, and many want Pelosi and Schumer to stand firm against the must-pass bill until leaders save the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
. . . . For now, both Ryan and Pelosi are falling in line with the more combative wings of their parties.
Ryan told reporters in early November that there was no need to address DACA by year’s end because the program expires in March under President Donald Trump’s orders.
Pelosi vowed at a news conference earlier this month, “We will not leave here without the DREAM Act passing, with a DACA fix,” adding: “We’re not kicking the can down to March.”
But privately, both sides are worried — fearful of either enraging the party’s base or getting punished at the polls for a government shutdown.
Democrat lawmakers are insisting on a bill that does more than enshrine DACA into law; they want the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) resurrected. To that end, they are rebelling against Democrat leadership who don’t want a government shutdown that will be pinned, in large part, on them given that Trump tossed it back to Congress where it belongs.
The DREAM Act, in various incarnations, has been bouncing around Congress since 2001 when Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) first introduced it in the Senate. In 2010, when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress, they failed to pass the bill; this failure ultimately led to Obama’s unconstitutional DACA “fix.”
“We want a clean DREAM Act,” said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), referring to legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for the young adults. “That is what it’s going to take for me and others to sign on.”
Ryan (R-Wis.), Pelosi, Schumerand Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are already discussing a short-term government-funding extension to buy themselves more time to negotiate, likely culminating in a Christmastime collision.
For their part, Congressional Republicans know that DACA is a bone of contention with the base and understand that ending DACA was a key promise of President Trump’s campaign. Meanwhile, some in the GOP do want to see a legislative DACA fix this year.
Some senior GOP sources believe they may have to address DACA before 2018 begins; if the government closes even in part because of Democrats, Republicans fear they’ll get the blame from voters since they control Washington.
GOP leadership is also getting an earful from centrist Republicans who want to strike a deal now. “I want to see it done by the end of the year,” said Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Republican of Cuban descent who’s trying to bring both sides together. “We don’t want this to spill into next year. No. 1, that means more drama here. It means a lot of worried young people and a lot of anxiety.”
The right is trying to ensure Ryan and McConnell don’t make any immigration deals. They’ve taken their case to the White House and convinced Trump, at least momentarily, that government funding and DACA should be negotiated separately.
“We do not want DACA on the [spending] bill,” said House Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
. . . . Moderate Republicans, who rarely go against GOP leaders, recently held a news conference calling for Ryan to act on DACA by the end of 2017. Centrists in the Tuesday Group huddled last week with the New Democrat Coalition and agreed to find a bipartisan solution.
Ultimately, the DREAM Act is dead-in-the-water unless Democrats take back the House next year. DACA’s immediate future in Congress seems equally uncertain, largely because of efforts to tie it to a budget bill, thus the concerns about a government shutdown.
The question Congressional Republicans should be asking themselves (and the president) is “will President Trump sign into law a DACA bill that lands on his desk?”.DONATE
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