Dem leaders pull back from hard-line immigration demand
Democratic leaders are backing off of their demand that “Dreamer” protections be a part of the 2018 budget negotiations.
While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders had hinged their support for last month’s budget caps deal on a commitment from Republicans to consider legislation salvaging the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, they’ve signaled they won’t hold a similar line heading into next week’s expected vote on an omnibus spending bill.
The apparent change in strategy has angered immigrant rights advocates in and out of Congress, who want the minority Democrats to use their rare leverage on the omnibus government funding package — among the last must-pass bills of the year — to secure protections for the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.
“We need a budget or spending measure that includes the Dream Act. Punto,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said last week.
Democratic leaders have kept the rhetorical heat on Republicans to stage a DACA vote, using every opportunity to press Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to bring the issue to the floor. But after Senate Democrats were blamed for a brief government shutdown over DACA in January — and with Republicans likely needing scores of Democratic votes to pass the omnibus — House leaders are not insisting that such a commitment accompany the 2018 spending package.
Instead, Democratic leaders want appropriators in both parties to drop all contentious “riders” for the sake of easing passage of the omnibus and preventing a government shutdown ahead of March 23, when funding expires.
“I think that’s probably the best policy for us to do,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer(Md.), the Democratic whip. “It’s also politically the most feasible way to get an omnibus passed.”
Hoyer suggested the Democrats’ most effective tool in moving the Republicans to act on DACA is not withholding omnibus votes, but rousing pressure from the public, which polls show is overwhelmingly opposed to deporting the Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as minors.
“Our best leverage is 90 percent of the American people — 87 percent — think this ought to be done,” he said.
Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), a co-chairman of the Democrats’ messaging arm, offered a slightly different assessment, predicting the only force likely to move GOP leaders on DACA is pressure from within their own conference.
“The only likely scenario is that the Republican members of Congress who claim that they support the Dream Act put pressure on the Speaker to say we need to take some action on this,” he said.
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