As Deadline Looms, Time for Congress to Act on Dream Act
Leading observers are denouncing and dismissing the White House immigration principles releasedSunday night. The consensus from right and left is that this wish list of poison pills was put out by hardliners Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions in an effort to kill, rather than advance, a legislative solution for Dreamers.
In addition to leading lawmakers and advocates, the nation’s top editorial boards were quick to weigh in with criticism of the White House and calls for Congress to instead pass a simple, clean bill for Dreamers. Below are excerpts of key editorials from the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times, followed by our take on the way forward.
Washington Post editorial, “Trump’s Cruel Sabotage of the ‘Dreamers’”:
Congress need not be captive to the White House’s laundry list of demands, released Sunday, to which hard-liners would attach — and thereby doom — legislation to legalize the dreamers’ status in the United States … In fact, there is political and moral logic in pushing ahead with a “clean” bill to deal with the dreamers.
The political logic is there is no immigration-related issue on which Americans have reached so broad a consensus as they have on conferring legal status on the dreamers, to shield them from the threat of deportation and allow them to study, work and lead normal lives. In polls, a large majority of Americans agree on this; in Congress, all Democrats and many Republicans also agree. So why gum it up with more contentious immigration debates?
The moral logic is just as clear-cut. Dreamers, most of them in their teens, 20s and early 30s, have grown up in the United States, gone to American schools and colleges, speak English and, having qualified for the DACA program in the first place, have clean records. Many work; some own cars, homes and businesses. They are neighbors, friends, classmates and colleagues; they are Americans in all but the most technical sense. It would be preposterous at this point to threaten them with deportation, let alone to expel them en masse.
That’s why it’s also politically and morally illogical, and untenable, to freight their cause with every other immigration issue. This one issue really can stand alone, and be fixed — even by a Congress that seems incapable of fixing anything else.
New York Times editorial, “On Immigration, Mr. Trump Shows Congress It’s on Its Own”:
A White House official said in a call with reportersSunday night that the list of draconian proposals would be a fulfillment of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises, implying that this is what Americans want. Let’s stop right there. The president, in case he forgot, lost the popular vote by millions, and his approval ratings are sputtering in the mid- to high-30s. In contrast, Americans overwhelmingly support letting Dreamers stay in this country.
So what can Republicans do? Start by working across the aisle on sensible immigration legislation. That would begin with what got this entire discussion started: a deal to protect the Dreamers. It would not include Mr. Trump’s border wall, a nonstarter for Democrats that Republican budget hawks also oppose.
No matter what the final package looks like, it needs to get to the floor and be put to a vote — which depends on the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, embracing higher principles than fear of their Tea Party rebels. This doesn’t need to be so hard: There’s a sympathetic population that needs immediate help, there are blueprints on the table that might find bipartisan consensus, and there is a ticking clock.
Wall Street Journal editorial, “Immigration Bait and Switch”:
The new White House demands include 70 immigration “priorities” that amount to everything that the restrictionist right has ever sought … It’s hard to know if Mr. Trump intends all this as a serious negotiating offer, or merely as poison pills.
… The political reality is that most of Mr. Trump’s demands have no chance of passing no matter which party controls Congress. The President and his anti-immigration strategist—White House aide Stephen Miller —may think DACA is the only carrot big enough to leverage their agenda through Congress.
…This would be a humanitarian calamity, and a monumental lost political opportunity. Mr. Trump needs legislative victories to show he can govern, but his immigration bait and switch may guarantee another failure.
Los Angeles Times editorial, “Trump’s Decisions to End DACA and the Clean Power Plan Are All About Negating Obama”:
…in yet another twist, he [President Trump] is saying he will back that new law only if Congress gives him funding for his ridiculous and exorbitant border wall, 10,000 more immigration agents and more immigration judges, prosecutors and detention beds, while also scrapping protections for the most vulnerable unaccompanied minors. That’s not a policy template, it’s a ransom demand.
…It is a matter of fundamental fairness, and humanity, to find a way to let them [Dreamers] stay instead of deporting them to countries they barely know. Their fate should not be used as a bargaining chip to achieve Trump’s goal of cracking down on immigration.
So what can and should Congress do to protect Dreamers?
The next deadline for must-pass legislation is December 8, 2017. Congress has to approve a spending bill to keep the federal government open. If recent history is any guide, many Republicans will refuse to vote for any such spending measure, requiring a bipartisan vote to keep the government up and running. And most Democrats simply will not support a bill that funds the deportation of Dreamers losing their DACA status. Republicans in Congress need to make sure the Dream Act is part of that package if they want Democrats in Congress to vote for it.
Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:
Congress has the power, the votes and the motivation to get a deal done on a clean Dream Act. The quickest and simplest solution is to add Dream to the December omnibus spending package. That’s the way this gets done in Congress, and it’s also what the American people want. Poll after poll shows that they strongly support the bipartisan Dream Act. That’s not a Dream Act burdened by Stephen Miller’s poison pills, it’s simply the Dream Act that finally and formally recognizes immigrant youth as the Americans they already are. Congress has a rare opportunity get something done that moves the country forward and is simply the right thing to do. With President Donald Trump deferring to President Stephen Miller, it’s now up to Republican leadership and Congressional Democrats to make it happen.