Is DACA deal dead?
With a deadline to avoid a shutdown of the federal government just two days away and temporary protection for Dreamers expiring in less than a month, an agreement that would codify DACA (President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) appears more elusive than ever. Both sides are perhaps farther apart than ever before on the issue of immigration reform, largely due to President Trump continually moving the goal posts, changing the criteria under which he would allow Dreamers to become legal residents and ultimately citizens.
On Tuesday the White House made the matter worse when Chief of Staff John Kelly slammed many previously eligible Dreamers for being “too lazy to get off their asses” and register for DACA earlier, and Trump - as usual offering no evidence to support his claims - blamed the current legal immigration system for “loopholes where killers are allowed to come into our country and continue to kill.”
Trump said he would prefer a government shutdown over backing away from any of his recent immigration proposals, proposals that critics say the president surely knows Democrats could never accept.
These include eliminating almost all of the categories of family members whereby U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are able to petition for close relatives to come to the United States, and funding not just the “wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border but also spending billions of dollars on ICE officers and judges whose sole purpose is to round up and deport as many unauthorized residents as possible.
Trump and his anti-immigrant allies in the U.S. House and Senate have been using the Dreamers as bargaining chips to get what they really want, which is to stop as many people of color as possible from entering the United States – even legally – while expanding the government’s means of deporting those who are already here.
For immigrant advocacy groups like Unido-sUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza) this is a bridge too far.
Following the State of the Union address, Undio-sUS decried Trump’s “policy to end ‘chain migration’ which is a bigoted and offensive term that refers to the process by which U.S. citizens can reunite with their parents and adult children.”
Dreamers and those who support their cause are unlikely to embrace any plan under which a certain number of young men and women would be allowed to remain in the U.S. only to have their parents and family members deported, never to be reunited in this country again.
Bipartisan efforts to do what is best for the Dreamers - and the nation – have been proposed, such as the USA Act from Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and John McCain (R-AZ), a bill the senators say is narrowly framed legislation intended to allow immigrant youth to apply for lawful status while addressing various border security measures. Sadly, President Trump denounced the measure as “a total waste of time,” clearly preferring to ramp up his anti-immigrant rhetoric even further while on the other hand claiming to “love the Dreamers.”
If, as seems likely as of the time this goes to press, no acceptable immigration deal will emerge this week to avoid a government shutdown, the clock begins to tick in earnest for the Dreamer’s March 5 deadline which, John Kelly said on Tuesday, he doubts Trump will extend.