White House threatens to deport Dreamers if no deal is reached by March 5

Trump said Dreamers have "nothing to worry about."

Demonstrators, many of them recent immigrants to America, protest the government shutdown and the lack of a deal on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) outside of Federal Plaza on January 22, 2018 in New York City. CREDIT: Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Demonstrators, many of them recent immigrants to America, protest the government shutdown and the lack of a deal on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) outside of Federal Plaza on January 22, 2018 in New York City. CREDIT: Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Last September, President Trump said he has “great love” for the so-called “Dreamers,” referring to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Days later, he went a step further, tweeting that Dreamers have “nothing to worry about.”

“No action!” he promised.

On Thursday, Trump proposed legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for as many as 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants in exchange slashing legal immigration, his beloved wall, and a crackdown on other undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

The White House has described the plan as an “extremely generous” take-it-or-leave-it proposal. The New York Times reported Thursday that White House officials said the list of “enhanced security measures” were nonnegotiable, and, “[t]hey warned that if no deal is reached, DACA recipients will face deportation when the program fully expires on March 5.”

One unnamed senior official said the young immigrants would not be specifically targeted, but rather they would be treated as “illegal immigrants” who would be processed for deportation if they came into contact with immigration officers. And even if they won’t be targeted for deportation — although they could be, as the government has a vast amount of personal information on each Dreamer that they were required to turn over to apply for the program — without the DACA program, its recipients will lose their work permits.

So much for having “nothing to worry about.”

Giving immigrants many things to worry about has been a top priority of the Trump administration, and Thursday’s deportation threat is more evidence that the White House sees the 690,000 young people who benefit from DACA as a bargaining chip, not as 690,000 people with lives, jobs, homes, and families.

The situation for Dreamers has been fraught for some time. Even before Trump rescinded DACA, Dreamers were being deported, and now, with each passing day, 122 DACA recipients lose their status, according to The Center for American Progress. (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent outlet housed at CAP).

On Friday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) rejected Trump’s proposal.

“He uses [Dreamers] as a tool to tear apart our legal immigration system and adopt the wish list that anti-immigration hardliners have advocated for for years,” Schumer said on Twitter Friday.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Democratic Whip, has also publicly rejected the president’s proposal, saying in a statement Thursday night, “Dreamers should not be held hostage to President Trump’s crusade to tear families apart and waste billion of American tax dollars on an ineffective wall.”

Much of the rest of the caucus can be expected to follow in Durbin and Schumer’s footsteps, and without Democratic support, the deal could be dead in the water. The government is funded only through February 8, having reopened after Democrats agreed to a funding deal when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made a promise to put a DACA deal on the table.

A vote on the White House plan, while anathema to Democrats, would technically fulfill McConnell’s pledge.