Before the holidays, Congress enacted a stopgap measure to continue federal government funding through January 19. This continuing resolution failed to address the urgent crisis facing Dreamers. Ahead of the upcoming busy weeks of negotiations, here are five key factors driving the Dreamer debate:
1) Dreamers need urgent relief now and Members of Congress need to keep their word: Dreamers are having their lives upended by an unfolding crisis of the Trump Administration’s making. The deadline facing DACA recipients is not, as some Republican Leaders like to claim, in March; it was months ago. Nearly 15,000 DACA recipients have already lost their DACA status and an estimated 122 DACA recipients lose their status every day. The examples of young people like Osman Enriquez and Brittany Aguilera are prime examples. Everyone from President Trump to key members of both parties have pledged to protect Dreamers. Now’s the time for elected officials to keep their word.
2) The public wants Congress to act: Americans overwhelmingly support keeping Dreamers in America, and they expect their elected representatives to deliver a solution. In poll after poll, more than 8 out of 10 Americans want Congress to find a way for young immigrants to remain in America; 2 out of 3 Republicans want the same. The only place where this issue seems to be the least bit controversial is among some Republicans in Washington, DC. As CNN political commentator Ana Navarrosaid today, “Only in America – only in Washington and this dysfunctional, paralyzed government – can everybody want a solution and not reach one.” It’s time for that to change.
3) Beware of poison pills from Rep. Goodlatte and the usual crowd of anti-immigrant suspects: The news that House Homeland Security Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) led a group of House Republicans for an Oval Office meeting on immigration before the holidays and is now working on accompanying legislation should be viewed for what it is: hostage-taking that is more likely to scuttle a deal than to advance one. Rep. Goodlatte has worked his entire career to kill common sense immigration reform measures and to promote a hard right anti-immigrant agenda. No wonder he is loved by NumbersUSA, a nativist group and member of the John Tanton network, receiving a “Blue Ribbon” award from the organization in 2010. In 2014, Goodlatte said of Dreamers, “Whether they came in illegally or whether they entered the country legally and overstayed a visa or a visa waiver, they should be required to leave. That’s what the law says and that’s how the law should be enforced.” View any bill that Goodlatte’s crew puts forward as a batch of poison pills designed to imbalance the debate so that Republicans set up a “heads I win, tails you lose” situation: either hardcore Republicans get all of what they want in exchange for taking Dreamers hostage — a wall, turbocharged interior enforcement, and deep cuts to legal immigration — or they blame Democrats for not paying the ransom.
4) A reasonable bipartisan deal is within reach: The fact is that Democrats have leverage in January, and Republicans need Democratic votes in January. Republicans have also promised to solve the crisis that Trump created when he ended DACA. So, if Democrats insist on the Dream Act being a priority, and, if Republicans are willing to negotiate a decent, bipartisan policy approach, it will happen. Sure, if Democrats signal weakness or if Republicans insist on poison pills, we could end up with a blame game and not a breakthrough. But given the strong support in both chambers of Congress and on both sides of the aisle, plus the need for Democrats to deliver and Republicans to govern, we believe that however difficult the process, a reasonable bill that combines the bipartisan Dream Act with a bipartisan approach to enhanced border security is within reach.
5) History is watching: As Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, recently stated: “Dreamers are Americans. They grew up here. They contribute here. They belong here. Anything less than enacting legislation to recognize these truths will degrade and diminish who we are. History is watching.”