Last night the House passed the Republican short-term spending bill on mostly a party-line vote. Then the Senate took up a procedural vote to prepare for consideration of the measure today. I watched as both Senators McConnell and Corbyn made remarks over and over again about how the Democrats were insisting on including a measure related to “illegal immigrants” (never referring to DACA or Dreamers) along with the suggestion that there is no urgency to the matter because Congress has until March to deal with the issue. Here is what McConnell tweeted:
Just so #Senate Democrats know, #DACA does not begin to face a deadline until March, at the earliest. The deadline to fund the government and the Children’s Health Insurance Program is TOMORROW. pic.twitter.com/JTS3p2sgnQ
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) January 19, 2018
One might ask why anyone has to chose between the two. But the truth is that, because Republicans were more interested in tax cuts than children’s access to health care, CHIPs funding expired on October 1, 2017. States have been using other funds to keep the program alive since then.
It is the claim that there is no urgency for the Dreamers that was unconscionable. Finally, Sen. Durbin stood up to say so.
There is urgency when it comes to our Dreamers. There’s an urgency in their lives because of the uncertainty of tomorrow. Will they be deported or given a chance to continue their lives in America?
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) January 19, 2018
There are about 700,000 DACA recipients whose lives are in the balance right now and Republicans think they have the luxury of waiting until the deadline in March to answer the question about whether or not they face deportation or will be able to continue their lives in this country. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live with that hanging over your head.
When it comes to the urgency Dreamers feel, it might be helpful to remember how we got here. Back in September, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would end the DACA program and wind it down over the next six months, leading to the March deadline. The argument was that the Obama executive order that protected the Dreamers from deportation was illegal. But Trump could have waited for the courts to decide and, in the meantime, worked on passing a legislative fix. That would have been the humane thing to do. Instead, he simply ended it.
Then later in September, this happened.
Democratic leaders on Wednesday night declared they had a deal with President Trump to quickly extend protections for young unauthorized immigrants and to finalize a border security package that does not include the president’s proposed wall…
“We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the president,” the statement said. “The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
The president almost immediately reneged on the deal and started claiming that funding for the border wall would have to be included in any DACA agreement.
This whole issue moved to the back burner as Republicans became obsessed with passing their tax cut bill. But Senators Durbin and Graham eventually began working with the “Gang of Six” (three Democrats and three Republicans) on a compromise. At a White House meeting of congressional leaders a couple of weeks ago focused on immigration, Trump declared that he would basically sign anything they passed and “take the heat” with his base.
Next came the meeting where Durbin and Graham were invited to the White House to present their bipartisan agreement on DACA. On the phone prior to the meeting, Trump expressed agreement with the plan—which included funding for the wall as well as curbs on so-called “chain migration” and the visa lottery system (all items the administration had insisted on). As we all know, Durbin and Graham were ambushed in that meeting, leading to the now-infamous “shithole” remarks.
Given all of that, it came as no surprise that McConnell said Wednesday that he had no idea what Trump wanted when it came to DACA.
"I am looking for something that President Trump supports. He has not yet indicated what measure he is willing to sign," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says of immigration debate https://t.co/sOwjbNTA1M pic.twitter.com/5xRYkt8QVk
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 17, 2018
Think about that for a moment. The president who ended DACA and has twice rejected bipartisan agreements on a legislative fix either doesn’t know what he wants or hasn’t communicated that to the Senate majority leader. Now Republicans are saying that there’s no urgency to the matter and DACA recipients should simply trust that they will pass something just before their time runs out.
Democrats and Dreamers are right to feel a sense of urgency about this and question whether or not this president actually wants to fix the problem he created in the first place.