Facing an ultimatum from President Trump, the Senate has begun what has been promised to be an open debate on the future of DACA. Whether our legislators are able to come up with a clean bill regarding the status of the purported 800,000 illegals that signed up for protections under that plan is yet to be seen.
Part of the problem for those crafting the bill is that no one can even agree on who is being considered or how many illegal immigrants would be affected by a bill once passed and signed.
Depending on who you ask there are between 1 and 20 million illegal immigrants in this country who will be affected in some way or another by the decisions made over the course of the next few weeks.
The Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit think tank, estimates that there are 3.6 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before their 18th birthday. By definition all of those are DREAMers, however that number fails to take into account DREAMers immediate family members (multiple 3.6 million by at least 2) who are also here in this country illegally.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a nightmare because it wasn’t instituted the way our constitution calls for such an action. Then President Barack Obama gave birth to DACA through an executive action and the result was that around 800,000 illegal immigrants under the age of 18 were overnight given a 2-year extension without any Congressional oversight
Obama then tried to expand that action in 2014 to include coverage of more illegal immigrants but the Department for Homeland Security rescinded that order in 2017.
Last September President Trump gave Congress six months to pass the Dream Act thus offering some legal path to citizenship for all immigrants allowed to stay under DACA excluding any who had committed any serious misdemeanors or felonies. Now the clock is ticking for those 800,000 who mainly didn’t come to the U.S. of their own accord.
Clearing Up Some Misconceptions
The mainstream media and many Democrats have been quick to latch on to DREAMers in order to paint Trump as uncaring. The truth is that DACA has always been a massive amnesty program. It is not a law but rather a violation of the law.
President Obama’s executive action is not a law or even a policy. Instead, it was from the beginning a blatant violation of immigration law passed by the only body with the Constitutional authority to do so – Congress.
Ronald Reagan trusted Democrats in 1986 to keep promised actions if he signed a massive immigration bill. Reagan later said that was one his greatest mistakes – trusting the Democrats. Now President Trump has kept his campaign promise and held the line on Congress – do something now or the DREAMers will be deported.
Senator Mitch McConnell has established a rule for debate that will allow for a variety of amendments to the Dream Act with open debate. McConnell supports Trump’s plan to decrease legal immigration, provide $25 billion in to fund the wall and establish a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants. Though that faces overwhelming opposition from Senate Democrats, McConnell said:
“I believe it deserves the support of every senator who’s ready to move beyond making points and actually making a law. But if other proposals are to be considered, our colleagues will have to actually introduce their own amendments rather than just talk about them.”
Republicans are looking to start the debate with a vote on sanctuary cities and penalties for refusing to enforce federal immigration policy. Trump has stated his expressed desire for this to be one of the things handled first and Conservatives are solidly behind him on that.
Democrats are eager to put Trump’s proposal up for a vote as soon as possible. Probably because they believe it will fail and thus open the door for proposals more suitable to them.
Some of the proposals that will be voted on are:
- The Grassley Bill – lines up with Trump’s desires and is supported by conservatives like Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
- The Graham-Durbin Plan – opposed by Trump and Congressional conservatives because they say it is too liberal offering only $2.5 billion for a wall.
- The Common Sense Plan – Offered by a bipartisan group led by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Offers $25 billion for border security but no mention of a wall.
- The Flake plan – called by some the Flake Punt, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona wants to protect DACA recipients for an additional three years and provide an unspecified amount of funding for border security.
Every plan from Graham-Durbin, to the Grassley/Trump proposal, to the new Flake plan would offer a path to citizenship for those in the U.S. who are eligible for DACA.
There is still disagreement on the issue of border security, mainly because Democrats don’t want to be seen as caving on Trump’s insistence on Wall funding. The White House wants $25 billion and at this point, the Grassley bill, Flake’s Plan, and the “Common Sense” compromise all are agreed on that amount.
After all the ballyhoo about DREAMers the issue that Congress does not appear to be close to agreement on is legal immigration. Trump has called for a substantial reduction of legal immigration through cuts to the diversity visa program and changes to family-based migration. Grassley and others may give on that point but are not visibly in favor of it.
Moderate Republicans and most Democrats have balked at sweeping changes to legal immigration, especially when the more immediate issues of DACA and border security are near a resolution. The Common Sense proposal tries to thread that needle, by restricting family-based immigration for the parents of DACA recipients.
Now the White House is holding a hard line on its demands. The next two weeks will show if the Great Negotiator can achieve what the Great Communicator appeared to do, but failed.