DACA Supporters Plan Huge Push

  • U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) testifies before the Senate Committee on Finance "Hearing to Consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Proposal" on the repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Sept. 25, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Graham is among Senate Republicans who have introduced bills to protect Dreamers and have recorded videos in support of the effort. (Ron Sachs/CNP/Sipa USA/TNS)

McClatchy Washington Bureau
Thursday, November 23, 2017

Washington — With prospects dimming for a deal this year to prevent young immigrants brought the to U.S. as children from deportation, sympathetic groups are planning a big push over the next few weeks to force the issue back to the top of Washington’s agenda.

Activists see their December bid as their last, best shot to save 800,000 young immigrants protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

They face a tough challenge, with the White House distracted by tax reform and Congress reluctant to act quickly to save the program.

Calling it illegal, the administration announced in September DACA’s termination would come after a six-month delay to give Congress time to pass a legislative fix that might allow people here illegally to stay in the only country many of them have ever known.

The multiple initiatives to save the immigrants begin next week, when caravans of the young immigrants will start arriving in Washington. Activists are planning rallies in front of the White House, sit-ins on Capitol Hill and other possible acts of civil disobedience.

“People are throwing everything at the wall because they see this as the moment,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, which is working with Republicans and Democrats who support protecting DACA recipients.

The business community will set up a “war room” inside the Capitol where Republican and Democratic supporters can conduct satellite interviews with national and local media.

The room will include video monitors of interactive maps with data from all 435 congressional districts and live feeds to coordinated rallies in dozens of major cities across the country, including Miami, Raleigh, N.C., Sacramento, Calif., Kansas City and Boise, Idaho, among others.

Senate Republicans such as North Carolina’s Thom Tillis and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who have introduced bills to protect the immigrants, have recorded videos in support of the effort.

The Partnership for a New American Economy also plans to launch a series of national digital ads to draw attention to the effort to support DACA beneficiaries.

The efforts face significant roadblocks.

The White House is clearly focused on overhauling the nation’s tax code and signaled recently that its immigration priorities do not include DACA until after the border is secure.

“The president has made clear any immigration reform must first deliver for American citizens and workers. His priorities are securing the border with a wall, closing legal loopholes that enable illegal entry, interior enforcement and combating visa overstays, and ending chain migration,” said deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.

While some DACA recipients were allowed one more extension, those whose protections expire after March 5 will then lose their worker permits and could face deportation orders.

After an initial uproar, momentum has slowed since Trump backed away from a tentative deal with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California reached in September.

Pelosi has since threatened Democrats could withhold support from must-pass spending bills. At a Nov. 9 news briefing, the San Francisco Democrat promised, “we will not leave here without the DREAM Act passing with a DACA fix.” Congress has until Dec. 8 to pass legislation to fund the government.

But even Democrats concede helping the DACA beneficiaries is not at the top of their to-do list at the moment. Right now, negotiations with Republicans are consumed with hashing out new budget caps, a necessary precursor to a spending agreement.

House Republican leaders are comfortable letting the issue roll into 2018. The party’s top priorities are tax reform, spending legislation and disaster aid to pay for hurricane recovery efforts in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and for wildfire recovery in California.

They are aware Democrats are going to try to push for DACA to be included in a year-end legislative package.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, speaking via webcast to the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, said he would rather address the issue in December, but because of the tax bill that’s unlikely.

“Two months have now passed, and I’m sad to report that we’re arguably further away from a solution today than we were then,” said Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s chief policy officer.