Let’s Talk About What Real Bipartisan Immigration Reform Would Look Like

This is the week that Majority Leader McConnell set aside for the Senate to work on a DACA legislative fix. We are hearing reports about yet another attempt to reach a compromise.

The problem is that Trump has previously rejected all compromise proposals and threatened to veto anything that veers from what he is demanding in return for granting a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers. The president’s spokesperson on this in the Senate, Tom Cotton, put it this way:

Greg Sargent is right to suggest that this is an attempt to paint a non-negotiable demand as if it were some sort of compromise.

…treating this situation as a normal negotiation fundamentally obscures its profound asymmetry. One side is putting forth genuine good-faith compromise offers that would require concessions by both sides. The other just isn’t doing this at all — instead, they are demanding that they must be given everything they want, while spinning their demands as reasonable in a manner that is absolutely saturated in bad faith from top to bottom.

The problem is that Trump and extremists like Cotton are trying to paint their demands as an overall immigration reform plan. But Jorge Ramos is right in that it pretends to ignore one very important issue.

Perhaps the mistake that Democrats made was limiting negotiations to an attempt to find a legislative fix for DACA. If the nativists want to move the goalposts now and make a claim to overall immigration reform, it might be time to step back and return to the debate about border security in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.

Sargent goes on to point out what I have been saying for a while now—that the Dreamers themselves are not willing to be used as hostages.

“If they’re going to demand the Stephen Miller wish list, Democrats should say no,” Greisa Martinez Rosas, the director of advocacy and policy for United We Dream, told me this morning. “There’s a line for how much we will allow Trump and Miller to extract for our protection.”

In other words, because it would pit the dreamers against many current undocumented immigrants (including their own parents) and against future immigrants, many dreamers themselves do not want Democrats to pay this price, even if it upends their own lives.

At this point, the March 5th deadline that has been at the center of the DACA debate is no longer the issue. Yesterday, a second court ruled that the Trump administration cannot end the program.

The judge’s decision follows a similar ruling by a federal court in San Francisco last month.

As NPR’s Joel Rose reports, “Garaufis said the administration can rescind DACA. But the judge said the reasoning behind its decision was flawed. The Justice Department argues that DACA was an illegal overreach by the Obama White House, and was likely to be overturned in court.”

Garaufis, however, said the government was “erroneous” in its conclusion that DACA was unconstitutional and that it violated the Administrative Procedures and Immigration and Nationality acts. He said President Trump’s termination of DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Now, all eyes are on the Supreme Court; the Department of Justice has taken the unprecedented step of asking them to review the 9th Circuit’s injunction that kept DACA in place. Noah Lanard lays out the three possible scenarios:

The worst case for DACA recipients would be for the Supreme Court to take the case this term and overturn the injunction. Even then, DACA renewals are likely to remain open for a few more months because both sides would need time to prepare the case. Another option would be for the Supreme Court to take the case in its next term, which starts in October—a more typical schedule for the court. If the Supreme Court completely denies the Justice Department’s request, the appeal will be heard by the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit is still months away from hearing the case, and it could ultimately decide to keep the injunction in place.

That doesn’t mean that there is no urgency to the Dreamers’ situation. But they are not willing to be hostages because there is also a very real urgency to the situation of the remaining undocumented immigrants due to this administration’s deport ’em all strategy. No matter how much Trump and his minions try to paint their proposal as a “final offer,” it is important to keep that bigger picture in mind. To the extent that they refuse to compromise, perhaps it’s time for the Democrats to go back to the drawing board and remind everyone of what real bipartisan immigration reform would look like—which would be the bill that passed the Senate in 2013 with 63 votes.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.