More time for ‘dream­ers’

Se­na­tor says pres­i­dent would step in if Con­gress fails to act in time

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ELISE VIEBECK

Trump would ex­tend the dead­line to end DACA pro­tec­tions if Con­gress fails to act, a se­na­tor says.

tulsa — Pres­i­dent Trump will ex­tend a March 5 dead­line to end pro­tec­tions for young un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants if Con­gress fails to act by then, ac­cord­ing to a Re­pub­li­can se­na­tor who spoke di­rectly with the pres­i­dent about the is­sue.

Sen. James Lank­ford (R-Okla.) said Trump told him he was will­ing to “give it some more time” to al­low law­mak­ers to find a so­lu­tion for “dream­ers,” unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants brought to this coun­try as chil­dren, if Con­gress does not pass leg­is­la­tion ex­tend­ing pro­tec­tions be­fore time is up.

“The pres­i­dent’s com­ment to me was that, ‘ We put a six­month dead­line out there. Let’s work it out. If we can’t get it worked out in six months, we’ll give it some more time, but we’ve got to get this worked out leg­isla­tively,’ ” Lank­ford said out­side a town hall here Thurs­day night.

Trump did not spec­ify how long an ex­ten­sion might last, Lank­ford said.

“He wants a leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion,” the se­na­tor said. “His fo­cus was, ‘ We’ve got to get a leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion.’ ”

A Lank­ford spokesman, D. J. Jor­dan, said Trump made the com­ments dur­ing a phone call with the se­na­tor last month.

The White House did not im­me­di­ately re­spond Thurs­day to a re­quest for com­ment.

The pres­i­dent hinted at this pos­si­bil­ity in a tweet Sept. 5, the day he an­nounced that his ad­min­is­tra­tion would end an Obama-era pro­gram, known as De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Arrivals, that al­lows th­ese im­mi­grants to stay in the coun­try with­out fear of de­por­ta­tion.

Trump and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions called the pro­gram an un­con­sti­tu­tional use of ex­ec­u­tive author­ity in the face of the threat of law­suits from Texas and other states.

“Con­gress now has 6 months to le­gal­ize DACA,” Trump wrote Sept. 5. “If they can’t, I will re­visit the is­sue!”

There are cur­rently 690,000 young peo­ple with DACA sta­tus, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

Ex­tend­ing the pro­gram could po­ten­tially restart those le­gal threats and cre­ate an ad­min­is­tra­tive headache at DHS, which last week stopped ac­cept­ing any more re­newal ap­pli­ca­tions for DACA re­cip­i­ents.

House Democrats are seek­ing suf­fi­cient GOP sup­port to force a vote on leg­is­la­tion known as the Dream Act that would pro­vide per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus to roughly 1.6 mil­lion dream­ers.

So far, all House Democrats and one Re­pub­li­can have signed a doc­u­ment that would call for an up-or-down vote on the mea­sure — far short of the ma­jor­ity of House law­mak­ers needed to bring up the leg­is­la­tion for con­sid­er­a­tion.

That ef­fort fell into po­ten­tial jeop­ardy af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­leased a list of hard-line im­mi­gra­tion de­mands late Sun­day, in­clud­ing fund­ing for a border wall, a crack­down on the in­flux of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­nors and curbs on fed­eral grants to “sanc­tu­ary cities.”

Lank­ford, a con­ser­va­tive Re­pub­li­can, rose from the House to the Sen­ate in 2014 af­ter win­ning a spe­cial elec­tion to re­place re­tir­ing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

On im­mi­gra­tion, Lank­ford re­cently co-au­thored a con­ser­va­tive al­ter­na­tive to the Dream Act that of­fers young un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants a 15-year path to cit­i­zen­ship.

“I think we’ll be ac­tu­ally vot­ing on some­thing like this in Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary,” he said.

The Suc­ceed Act bars dream­ers from tak­ing ad­van­tage of ex­ist­ing laws that let le­gal im­mi­grants pe­ti­tion au­thor­i­ties to al­low for­eign rel­a­tives come to the United States.

Spon­sors of the bill have said this pro­vi­sion is meant to en­sure that the par­ents of dream­ers cov­ered by the bill do not re­ceive pref­er­en­tial treat­ment.

Lank­ford ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for dream­ers Thurs­day night, not­ing there are roughly 7,500 in Ok­la­homa.

“We’ve got to fig­ure out what to do with th­ese kids,” he told an au­di­ence of about 200 peo­ple at the town hall.

“Th­ese are kids that have grown up here. I’m not in­ter­ested in de­port­ing them and kick­ing them out. But I’m also not in­ter­ested in them end­ing up in a limbo sta­tus on this.”

Lank­ford con­firmed Trump’s com­ments to him af­ter de­scrib­ing them to sev­eral 20-some­things who ap­proached him to talk about DACA af­ter the town hall.

“I was try­ing to set them at ease and to say, ‘ This is go­ing to get worked out. The pres­i­dent’s even said to me, we’re go­ing to get this worked out and find a so­lu­tion to this leg­isla­tively,’ ” he said.

Jor­dan Mazarie­gos, 24, a dreamer who is study­ing at ac­count­ing at Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity, was not fully re­as­sured.

“I don’t know,” he said af­ter hear­ing the com­ments. “I’ll be­lieve it when I see it.” Ed O’Keefe, David Naka­mura and Philip Rucker con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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