White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed on Thursday that House Democrats have done nothing to help Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — while simultaneously admitting that President Donald Trump’s own immigration plan offered them zero protections.
In a rare CNN appearance, Sanders echoed Trump’s claim a day earlier that it would be impossible for Congress to both pass legislation on the issue and carry out their constitutionally required oversight role — investigating potential wrongdoing by the president — at the same time.
“Democrats have been unwilling to work with him,” Sanders claimed. “We’ve laid out a number of plans. You say that the Democrats want to fix the thing with Dreamers. They’ve done nothing. They’ve literally done nothing.”
House Democrats have in fact passed more than 240 bills and resolutions since regaining control of the chamber in January, on topics ranging from health insurance to LGBTQ equality. In March, they introduced an immigration proposal that would have given more than 2 million undocumented immigrants — including Dreamers — the ability to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Sanders also claimed the Trump administration had put forth a proposal intended to “fix the long term system to have a merit-based [immigration] system.”
“We’ve put forward plan after plan, proposal after proposal. … Democrats haven’t responded to any of it,” she said.
The White House’s “merit-based” proposals, however, do not include any protections for Dreamers, something Sanders was forced to admit Thursday.
“The plan that we’ve laid out at this point doesn’t [provide Dreamers with protections] because that’s such a divisive issue,” she said. “We purposely didn’t include it.”
“Again,” she added, “we’re not ruling those things out, but we purposefully left that out at the beginning of the conversation. Democrats are welcome to come back and say ‘we like the rest of it, we want to do this,’ but they haven’t even done that.”
This is not the first time the White House has suggested that helping Dreamers is “divisive,” despite poll after poll showing that more than 80% of Americans support the idea. Sanders herself said earlier this month that the idea was “divisive,” while Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications, claimed the onus was on Democrats to accept several immigration deal-breakers in order to ensure Dreamers were protected.
The Trump administration has busied itself, meanwhile, defending unpopular Trump proposals, such as spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a southern border wall.
Indeed, the Trump administration has created much of the current impasse.
After congressional Republicans repeatedly blocked legislative efforts to protect undocumented young people and offer them a path to citizenship, President Barack Obama’s administration took executive action in 2012, signing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which provided temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
Trump fiercely opposed the program and has vowed to rescind it. His administration’s attempts to terminate DACA have been tied up in ongoing litigation and he has repeatedly tried to offer undoing his own action as a bargaining chip to get congressional Democrats to pass his other anti-immigrant proposals.
While Sanders complained of Democratic inaction this week, it is the Republican-controlled Senate that has become the legislative graveyard. The chamber has passed far fewer items this Congress and has not had a roll-call vote on a piece of legislation in months.
On Wednesday, Trump blew up talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on a bipartisan infrastructure plan, instead using the opportunity to deliver a carefully staged “tantrum” — as Pelosi dubbed it — on national television.
“Sadly, the only job the president seems to be concerned with is his own. He threatened to stop working with Democrats on all legislation unless we end oversight of his Administration and he had a temper tantrum for us all to see,” Pelosi said, shortly after Trump walked out of a meeting with the Democratic leaders and held a punctuated, angry press conference in the Rose Garden, complete with prepared signage and graphics.
Given the current stalemate, it seems unlikely that the two sides will be eager to return to the White House to negotiate immigration issues any time soon.