By Rafael Bernal, The Hill–
President Trump’s deadline for Congress to craft a deal for so-called Dreamers came and went Monday, and its anticlimactic passage is a clear indication that any legislative action on immigration is unlikely before November’s elections.
The official end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program brought with it name-calling and protests, but little certainty that Congress will move forward on the issue.
Dreamers – immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as minors – protested outside the Capitol, but they were commemorating a date that no longer holds the political urgency of a hard deadline.
A California court blocked the administration’s order to end DACA, allowing some members of congressional leadership to officially kick the can down the road.
“There is no deadline on DACA,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said after the court’s decision.
Four separate DACA bills failed to reach the 60-vote threshold in the Senate in February, leaving only a conservative Republican-only House bill introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in the legislative pipeline. Conservatives want a vote on that measure, but it doesn’t appear to have the support to pass the lower chamber.
Trump has used the following weeks to blame Democrats for the impasse, and Democrats have responded in kind.
“It’s March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. Gave them 6 months, they just don’t care. Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!” Trump tweeted Monday.
“The president created this crisis. The White House can say anything they want, but reality is they created this crisis six months ago,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), one of the top promoters of a bipartisan House bill on DACA.
When Trump set the deadline in September, he created a cliff where thousands of DACA recipients would lose their benefits each day. That shifted Congress into high gear on a search for a legislative replacement for the Obama-era program.
Congress stalled in its effort to legislate on the matter, and the court injunction forced the Trump administration to keep granting renewals to existing DACA recipients whose two-year permits expire.
But the injunction left younger Dreamers who would’ve aged into DACA unprotected, and existing beneficiaries could see gaps in their coverage – risking losing their jobs and being deported – as the Department of Homeland Security adjudicates their applications.
The base legislation to replace DACA was written well before Trump’s order canceling the program.
The DREAM Act, the bill that gave Dreamers their moniker, had in one way or another been in the pipeline since 2001, when it was moved to the bottom of the pile following 9/11.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) quickly picked up the DREAM Act in the fall and added border security provisions designed to attract Republican votes and Trump’s acquiescence.
In a January meeting, Trump panned the Graham-Durbin agreement, used coarse language to refer to African countries, El Salvador and Haiti, and bolstered the hopes of immigration hawks like Goodlatte.
“The president is the one who issued veto threats to bipartisan efforts, which have complicated the issue,” said Aguilar.
Liberal supporters of a DACA fix are incensed by what they see as an administration that constantly moved the goal posts on a potential deal, all but ensuring no legislation would ultimately pass.
“Donald Trump purportedly gave Congress six months to codify DACA into law, while simultaneously ensuring that a deal never materialized,” said Juan Escalante, a Venezuelan DACA recipient and communications manager for America’s Voice, a progressive immigrant rights advocacy group.
“DACA renewals are still being processed thanks to multiple courts intervening on the matter, but this is not a permanent solution. Trump’s deportation force will continue to prey on Dreamers whose DACA benefits lapse even if