San Francisco Chronicle
By Carolyn Lochhead
December 20, 2017
A deal to provide permanent legal status to young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children will be delayed until January, lawmakers said Wednesday, dashing hopes for a resolution before Christmas.
But negotiators were optimistic that some resolution would be reached in January.
“While I am disappointed we were unable to find a solution before the end of the year, this is not a partisan issue, and I am confident we will reach an agreement for DACA recipients early next year,” said Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford (Kings County), referring to roughly 800,000 young immigrants who are losing their temporary legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
President Trump ended the program in September, but gave Congress until March 5 to act before subjecting the immigrants, often called “Dreamers,” to potential deportation. Valadao is among 34 House Republicans who wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., this month to insist on action.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who had secured a promise of action on the Dreamers from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in exchange for his support for the tax bill, said Wednesday that McConnell had “committed to bring the bipartisan DACA bill we are currently negotiating to the Senate floor in January.”
Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and California Sen. Kamala Harris, had repeatedly insisted that their support for a year-end spending bill, which must be approved by midnight Friday to keep the government operating, depended on inclusion of a solution for Dreamers.
Republicans, for their part, had declared that the matter could wait until March, the deportation deadline, and party leaders have insisted that immigration issues be left out of the spending bill. For a large bloc of the House GOP, any expansion of immigration is a nonstarter.
Activists, who have been pressing for a resolution before the end of the year, said they were frustrated by the delay, but still hopeful.
“There’s a lot of disappointment and anger on the part of Dreamers and their allies given the crisis that’s been created,” said Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group. “But I’m optimistic that we have a decent chance to produce a breakthrough in January. In my view, we’ve lost time, but we haven’t lost leverage.”
More than 1,000 Dreamers swarmed the Capitol this week demanding action. Some camped out in front of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office, and two were arrested.
On Wednesday, Democrat Kevin de León, president of the California state Senate, lashed out at Pelosi and Feinstein, D-Calif., whom he is challenging in next year’s election, during a news conference in Los Angeles. “Don’t come back to California if you haven’t demonstrated your leadership and your courage to stand up for these young men and women,” he told them.
DeLeón praised Harris, who said at a Dreamers rally Wednesday that Democratic leaders in Washington claim to have power. “Well, use your power,” she told them. “Use your power. Keep our promise to these young people.”
But 10 Senate Democrats are up for re-election next year in states Trump won, and some made clear this week that they had no appetite for shutting down the government over an immigration issue.
“These Dreamer activists are in the Capitol and they’re demanding Senate Democrats filibuster the spending bill to shut the government down at Christmas time if there’s no DACA fix, and that’s just not going to happen,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a research group that favors reduced immigration. “It would be a political disaster for the Democrats.”
Lawmakers in both parties and both chambers are negotiating to find some form of protected status for the Dreamers in exchange for increased border enforcement. Democrats have insisted that any deal not include the border wall that Trump campaigned on, but Republicans are waiting for the White House to clarify its bottom line.
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump laid out several immigration goals. Although he did not connect these demands to the Dreamers, those who want to reduce immigration see them as part of a potential deal.
Trump mentioned a border wall and an end to “chain migration,” a reference to family immigration categories that allow citizens to apply for entry by their siblings, adult children and parents. He also said he wanted to terminate the diversity visa, which allows 50,000 people to enter the country after random selection through a lottery.
“There’s going to be some pulling and tug-of-war over what’s going to be in a final (Dreamers) bill,” Krikorian said.
Sharry dismissed the suggestion of restrictions on other immigration categories as posturing, saying they would be poison pills for Democrats.
“They’re asking for the moon,” Sharry said. “I get it. They’re positioning. … But (a Dreamers bill) is going to pass because Democrats support it, and Democrats aren’t going to support the hard-line nativist agenda.”
He said any deal has “pretty clear parameters,” which include “a path to citizenship for young immigrants and a modest border-security package.”
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