Senators Push Bill To Help DACA Recipients.
President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind deportation protections for young undocumented immigrants creates a crisis for the so-called “dreamers” who benefited from the program, even as Trump shifts responsibility for their fate to Congress.
The Trump administration set a six-month timetable to end former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
It is unclear if the move, announced Tuesday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the looming deadline will prod the Republicans who control Capitol Hill to finally pass Dream Act legislation after 16 years of failed attempts.
Trump cast doubt on the timeline in a tweet Tuesday night, saying he would consider revisiting the issue if Congress does not pass legislation.
But some lawmakers suggested a new sense of urgency is needed to prod risk-adverse lawmakers to finally codify elements of DACA, which was created via presidential executive action and not law.
Several iterations of the Dream Act have started to emerge, and there is preliminary talk on Capitol Hill of merging it with border-security measures as part of a compromise with GOP border hawks.
“This announcement … tells us that the clock is ticking,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who is considered the father of the Dream Act and is calling for action in September. “We are now in a countdown toward deportation for 780,000 protected by DACA today.”
The Senate needs a “timetable” to act to avoid “terrible consequences,” he said, just as most Americans need one when it comes to taking care of necessities such as paying taxes and going to the dentist.
Created in 2012, Obama’s DACA program provided certain immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children a two-year deportation deferment and work permit in exchange for registering with the government. At the time he announced it, Obama stressed that DACA was “a temporary stopgap measure” and “not a permanent fix” and continued to press Congress to pass the Dream Act. Republicans over the years have opposed DACA as constitutional overreach on Obama’s part.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an ally of Durbin’s on the Dream Act, echoed that “Congress is going to have to up its game” after the Tuesday announcement that DACA is going away in six months. DACA employment authorization documents that expire after March 5 will not be renewed, according to the White House.
Republican Senate and House leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have signaled that they are willing to take up the dreamers’ cause.
And Arizona’s two Republican senators — John McCain and Jeff Flake — said Tuesday that they are committed to addressing the dreamer issue, but in different ways.
McCain, who opposed Obama’s “unilateral” creation of DACA, wants to include it in larger, comprehensive immigration reform, as his bipartisan “Gang of Eight” did in 2013. That bill passed the Senate, but the GOP-run House of Representatives had no interest in taking it up.
“President Trump’s decision to eliminate DACA is the wrong approach to immigration policy at a time when both sides of the aisle need to come together to reform our broken immigration system and secure the border,” McCain said in a written statement. “I strongly believe that children who were illegally brought into this country through no fault of their own should not be forced to return to a country they do not know.”
Flake reiterated his call for Congress to immediately “pass permanent, stand-alone legislation to lawfully ensure that children who were brought here by their parents, through no fault of their own, are able to stay and finish their education and continue to contribute to society.”
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Flake — who was a member of 2013’s “Gang of Eight” along with McCain, Durbin and Graham — is currently a co-sponsor of the Dream Act as well as the BRIDGE Act, which essentially would preserve DACA in law, and introduced the SAFE Act, which also would extend DACA in law but additionally speed up deportations of immigrants convicted of serious crimes.
“We’ve got momentum,” Flake said during a Tuesday afternoon conference call with Arizona media. “There are 800,000 kids that are currently protected by DACA. We haven’t had that situation before, so they would be losing that protection if Congress doesn’t act, so that’s a great motivator.”
Room for compromise
Both Durbin and Graham said they may be amenable to a compromise that would bolster border security, though both suggested that a Trump-style border wall would not be an acceptable part of any deal.
Flake on Tuesday also said he supports more border-security measures but that “one single, solitary, edifice — a brick-and-mortar wall — across the entire border” is not what’s needed. He said he didn’t think the Dream Act would be tied specifically to such a project.
“There are currently three Republican co-sponsors of the Dream Act,” Durbin said. “We think that there are other (GOP) votes. … I think we’re in solid position on the Democratic side, so we’re at a good, strong starting point.”
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Republicans control the Senate with a 52-member majority.
“I believe, if it’s put to a vote, it will pass,” said Flake, who like Durbin and Graham, sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration.
“We already have the legislation: We have the Dream Act, we have the SAFE Act, we have the BRIDGE Act, any of which would fix the problem,” Flake added. “I hope that the president, in coming days, indicates that he’ll sign one of these measures. That would help. He doesn’t have to put together a proposal; he simply has to indicate that he’ll sign the legislation.”
House poses biggest challenge
Reporter Dianna M. Náñez interviews Belen Sisa, a DACA recipient and ASU student, about what the DACA is and the difference between DACA and the Dream Act.
Graham called on Trump to take an active role in getting a bill passed, especially in the House, where the far-right Freedom Caucus wields great influence.
“I’ll make a prediction. If he (Trump) gets involved, the people in the House are going to fall in line,” Graham said. “The Senate won’t be your problem. The problem will be in the House.”
Three of Arizona’s four members of the House Freedom Caucus said they welcome action on immigration matters, but did not suggest protecting dreamers was their priority.
“Both sides of the aisle agree there needs to be immigration reform, but that reform needs to be done through responsible, lawful means,” said U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., in a statement Wednesday. “That way we can avoid dreamy brashness and consider solutions respectful to realities on the ground.”
U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said immigration reforms must “eliminate the incentives for future illegal immigration.”
“There is a serious discussion to be had about immigration reform in America,” he said. “However, it must only come when we have fulfilled our promises to secure the border and enforce all current immigration laws.”
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U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., had a similar view.
“You’re going to have to start looking at what it takes to come to this country the right way,” Gosar said, adding that the nation needs to “reward good behavior.”
Any reforms, he said, need to ensure border security and not confer legal status to the dreamers’ wider family. Birthright citizenship should be reconsidered, along with other issues, he said.
“You have to look at this all the way around because, otherwise, you’ll continue to have a broken immigration system,” he said.
Gosar praised Trump for providing a workable timetable to work on the issue that allows Congress to handle matters like the approaching debt ceiling and Hurricane Harvey relief, but not so much that the issue falls away.
U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., didn’t issue any statements about the changes in his usual social media channels.
While the state’s House Republican members were generally slow to weigh in and cool to the dreamers, the state’s Democrats, who were eager to call for comprehensive immigration legislation or at least for something to accommodate dreamers.
Other members of the Freedom Caucus framed the issue as one of restoring congressional authority without suggesting where it leads for the dreamers.
In an interview Monday on Fox News, Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., another member of the Freedom Caucus, displayed some of the characteristic dismay with the program Obama created and a hesitancy to put the dreamer issue ahead of the longstanding GOP agenda.
He called Obama’s actions “an end-run around the Constitution,” and ticked through promises made to voters last year, which remain unfulfilled.
“I think moving on to something that’s controversial, that a lot of Republicans didn’t run on, you know, I think that that would be a mistake,” DeSantis said. “I think we’ve got to do what the American people sent us here to do, and that’s got to be the first order of business.”
Will Democrats negotiate?
Ray Ybarra Maldonado talks about the program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals being rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017, at press conference outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix. Mark Henle/azcentral.com
Some House Democrats on Tuesday stood firm against bargaining with Trump on a border wall, even for the Dream Act.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said in a Tuesday interview with CNN that he was not willing to fund Trump’s border wall as a way to protect the nearly 800,000 DACA participants, perhaps foreshadowing another stalemate on the immigration issue in Washington.
“Congress needs to act and pass some form of Dream Act that will actually protect them from deportation,” he said. “We don’t want to set up a precedent where we’re going to be able to use human lives for egotistical-driven, dumb ideas about what border security brings you, especially when your campaign promise was that Mexico was going to pay for it.”
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Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., pointed to an economic analysis by a liberal organization that said ending DACA would pull $1.3 billion out of Arizona’s economy. He said Trump has, once again, gone back on his word.
“President Trump once claimed that under his administration, dreamers would be treated ‘with heart,’ ” Grijalva said. “Yet nothing is more heartless and callous than taking away the sense of belonging and security for nearly 1 million young people in our country or using them as a bargaining chip for his obsession over a border wall.”
TALKING POLITICS: Listen to our Arizona politics podcast, The Gaggle, on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher or Google Play.
However, there are some signs that some bipartisan cooperation may be possible in the House.
Even before the official announcement, Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., joined nine other House Republicans last week calling on Ryan to put the fate of dreamers in the hands of Congress, not the president. She did not comment on Trump’s decision specifically.
“These individuals’ status in the United States should not be left to the political winds of different administrations that come to power,” the letter said. “Congress has a responsibility and a duty to address this problem legislatively and was robbed of the opportunity to do so when President Obama issued his June 2012 memorandum. We are willing and ready to find a solution no matter what action is taken by President Trump in the coming days and encourage you to work with us as soon as possible to do so.”
McSally also co-sponsors the Recognizing America’s Children Act, which would provide pathways to legal status for those currently protected under DACA through higher education, service in the Armed Forces or work authorization.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who is considering a possible 2018 bid for Flake’s Senate seat, noted her own disapproval of Trump’s ending of DACA via Twitter.
“Now it’s up to Congress to pass the DREAM Act. It’s well past time; let’s get it done,” she tweeted Tuesday.
Grijalva has joined with more than 100 Democrats to introduce the American Hope Act, which would allow dreamers to apply for legal residency status and a path to eventual citizenship, as well as end harsher financial treatment for those who attend college.
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Korina Iribe talks about being a DACA recipient | 2:47
Iribe, 27, has a family, home and job in Arizona, but now fears that could all be coming to an end.
Patrick Breen/The Republic
North High School students protest DACA decision | 1:37
Students from North High School left the campus at lunchtime and marched to the ICE headquarters in Phoenix to protest the decision by President Donald Trump to end the DACA program if Congress does not act. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
One of the organizers of the DACA student walkout speaks out | 1:42
Joseeduardo Ramos, a 15-year-old sophomore at South Mountain High School, talks about organizing the walkout on Sept. 5, 2017. Robert Gundran/azcentral.com
South Mountain student discusses DACA walkout | 1:12
Bairon Herrera, a South Mountain High junior, speaks about the walk-out and what DACA means to him on Sept. 5, 2017. Robert Gundran/azcentral.com
DACA recipient talks about new challenges ahead | 0:51
DACA recipient Emmanuel Lopez Rafael talks about new challenges he will face as President Donald Trump announces he will phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on Sept. 5, 2017. Nick Oza/azcentral.com
DACA recipient Korina Iribe reacts to DACA ending | 0:57
DACA recipient Korina Iribe speaks at press conference on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office at 2035 N Central Ave., Phoenix. Mark Henle/azcentral.com
AG Sessions: DACA program ‘unconstitutional’ | 1:13
The program that allowed as many as 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children to stay, is now being rescinded.
Protesters gather outside ICE headquaters after DACA announcement | 1:04
Hundreds gathered outside ICE headquarters in Phoenix on Sept. 5, 2017, to protest the Trump administration’s cancellation of the DACA program.
Protesters react to DACA decision at ICE headquarters | 0:53
Karina Ruiz, president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, stands in front of the ICE headquarters in Phoenix on Sept. 5, 2017, where she protests the Trump administration’s cancellation of the DACA program.
‘Dreamers’ rally in support of DACA | 2:52
Valley faith leaders host a vigil for “dreamers” and their families at the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services office in Phoenix on Sept. 4, 2017.
Nick Oza/The Republic
Activists in Phoenix respond to DACA decision | 0:58
‘Dreamers’ and others from various groups in Phoenix respond to the White House announcement on Sept. 5, 2017, that it will seek to wind down the program known as DACA. The Republic
The difference between DACA and the Dream act | 2:30
Reporter Dianna M. Náñez interviews Belen Sisa, a DACA recipient and ASU student, about what the DACA is and the difference between DACA and the Dream Act.
What are the requirements of DACA? | 1:25
Reporter Dianna M. Náñez interviews Belen Sisa, a DACA recipient and ASU student, about what the requirements are for becoming a DACA recipient.
What is the cost of DACA? | 0:53
Reporter Dianna M. Náñez interviews Belen Sisa, a DACA recipient and ASU student, about what the cost of DACA is.
DACA recipients and supporters hold press conference outside ICE building | 1:24
Phoenix residents Korina Iribe and Daniela Benitez discuss Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals during a press conference in downtown Phoenix on Aug. 29, 2017. Sean Logan/azcentral.com
How DREAMers get to stay in U.S. | 0:51
More than 780,000 DREAMers have been allowed to stay in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created under President Obama. Many worry about their future under President Trump.
Seeking a path to citizenship | 3:55
DACA recipient Gerson Gonzalez came to the United States illegally when he was 15 years old to live with his father. Ten years later, he is still seeking a path to citizenship. Cheryl Evans/azcentral.com
Video: What is DACA? Or Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals | 0:00
A quick lesson on Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
First protected DREAMer deported under Trump | 1:16
Federal agents deported 23-year-old DREAMer, Juan Manuel Montes. He is the first protected immigrant to be deported back to Mexico.
Arizona ‘dreamer’ Belen Sisa at the Democratic National Convention | 0:31
Belen Sisa is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient who posted on Facebook that she paid her taxes. Now people are reporting her to be deported.
Mexican immigrant ‘dreamer’ in Seattle sues US over arrest | 0:45
Attorneys for Ramirez argue the arrest violates his constitutional rights.
Mayors want Trump to keep DACA and protect Dreamers | 1:06
Lawmakers fear Trump could use the information Dreamers provide on their DACA applications to deport them.
Video provided by Newsy
A young conservative and a DREAMer debate immigration | 3:15
Young conservative Drew Sexton and a DREAMer Belen Sisa debate immigration.
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