Congressional Democrats appear to be reneging on promises to force a vote by the end of the year to pass legislation protecting undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children, despite ongoing pressure from the immigrant rights movement and increasing public support for reinstating such protections.
After the Trump administration announced in September that it would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with no fix for those who would lose their protected status as a result, Democratic lawmakers answered the wave of actions from immigrant advocates with a pledge to vote on the Dream Act before the New Year, in spite of holding a minority of seats in both bodies of Congress.
“I had [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi tell me to my face that she would get this done by the end of the year,” Adrian Reyna, a 26-year-old who came to the U.S. from Mexico at age 11, told the Washington Post. Pelosi told reporters earlier this month, “we will not leave here without a DACA fix,” referring to the rapidly approaching holiday recess.
Reyna, membership director of United We Dream—the youth-led immigrant group that has organized ongoing national protests—said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “looked into the eyes of our members and said he’s committed to getting this done. They cannot just tell us they are going to do something and then just drop out.”
Although members of United We Dream and other advocates have maintained a presence on Capitol Hill and targeted lawmakers across party lines, Republican leaders in Congress have given full priority to passing a tax plan that will give tax breaks to corporations and wealthy Americans at the expense of working families, and Democrats now seem unwilling to withhold support for a government spending bill to force a Dream Act vote.
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Congress has until Friday to pass a funding extension to avoid a government shutdown. In spite of earlier promises from Democrats, working in a DACA fix as a budget stipulation no longer seems to be up for discussion.
Seven DACA recipients were arrested for hosting a sit-in at the offices of Schumer and Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) on Friday and are now at an increased risk for deportation. The DREAM 7, as they are collectively being called, engaged in a hunger strike following their arrest in an effort to force Democratic leaders to “publicly confirm they have the votes to block any spending bill without a clean DREAM Act,” according to Splinter News.
When asked about DACA on Monday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told a Politico reporter, “This is something we’re going to turn to, I’m sure, in January.”
“We’ve got to get it done, but I’m not drawing a line in the sand that it has to be this week versus two weeks from now,” Sen. Claire McCaksill (D-Mo.), who is facing a midterm election in a state that voted for President Donald Trump by a notable margin, told the Post on Tuesday.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is among McCaskill and another two dozen Democratic Senators facing re-elction in states that supported Trump, said, “I will exercise every bit of leverage I can for the Dream Act, but if there is a vote that would lead to a shutdown, that’s where I draw the line.”
Despite inaction in Congress, the public increasingly supports reinstating DACA protections through federal legislation. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published Tuesday found 62 percent of Americans think Congress should continue the program, while only 19 percent believe legislators should let it expire. That’s up from 53 percent of Americans who supported retaining the program in September.
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