There were tentative overtures from President Trump this week on a bipartisan deal to protect young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation, though those negotiations are complicated by resistance from more liberal Democrats as well as Republican immigration hard-liners.
Trump convened a session with congressional leaders at the White House Tuesday and outlined the parameters of a bipartisan immigration deal that would shield more than 700,000 Dreamers from deportation; end the diversity visa lottery system; limit family-based migration; and strengthen border security. The Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September and gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix.
Democrats are pushing for a deal on DACA by Jan. 19, which is when the current short-term funding bill is set to expire. Democrats have said they won’t support a deal on spending caps before both sides agree on DACA. The stakes of the negotiations are high because if a DACA deal breaks down and Congress does not, at minimum, approve another short-term continuing resolution, the door is open to a potential government shutdown.
Many liberals and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus say they will not support any deal that ends the diversity visa lottery, which facilitates green cards for people from countries with lower rates of immigration to the U.S., or allows construction of Trump’s long-promised border wall.
Conservative Republicans, meanwhile, want a more aggressive immigration policy that would not only end the visa lottery program and family-based migration but would also crack down on sanctuary cities by denying them federal grants and require employers to use an E-Verify system to confirm they are hiring only legal workers. Then there is the issue of the border wall, which the administration now estimates will cost $18 billion.
After the meeting with lawmakers earlier in the week, when it seemed the outlines of a bipartisan deal was emerging, Trump declared on Twitter that funding for the wall must be part of any DACA deal.
In the midst of the DACA negotiations this week, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that safeguards for Dreamers must remain in place while a legal challenge to the executive order ending the program is still pending. The White House called the decision “outrageous” and said Congress must find a legislative solution.
Democrats warned that the court injunction should be viewed as a temporary reprieve, not a permanent solution that protects Dreamers. “It does not change the fact that Congress must act without delay to provide assurance to Dreamers and their families that they can remain here in this country,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). “The uncertainty of legal action is no better than the uncertainty of congressional inaction.”