One day after the Republican-majority Senate failed to pass an immigration framework to provide permanent protections for so-called Dreamers, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to blame Democrats.
“Cannot believe how BADLY DACA recipients have been treated by the Democrats,” Trump partially wrote in a tweet Friday. “[T]otally abandoned.”
Cannot believe how BADLY DACA recipients have been treated by the Democrats…totally abandoned! Republicans are still working hard.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018
Trump started the mess when he phased out DACA last September. The Obama-era program — known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provided temporary deportation relief and work authorization to certain immigrants who came to the country as children without inspection or became undocumented — was never intended to be a viable long-term solution. But in cancelling the program with a six-month sunset period, the president set off months of debate in Congress, a brief shutdown, and mass protests across the country. And with the onus on lawmakers to pass permanent legislation before March 5, 2018, the clock is ticking. Although a federal court has allowed recipients to renew their DACA statuses, that’s only a stopgap waiting for a White House legal challenge. Moving forward, hundreds of thousands of immigrants could remain in legal limbo.
Trump himself said in January he would sign anything that Democrats and Republicans sent him — at the time agreeing to a narrow proposal to secure the border and grant DACA recipients permanent protections. But days later, his administration released a framework that included “four pillars” including an earned pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, money for border security, the elimination of the diversity visa program and family-based migration, and closing “legal loopholes” in the asylum process. That framework — which Republicans have characterized as “mainstream” — was a nonstarter from the beginning. Ending legal immigration and sinking money into aggressive immigration enforcement has never been a selling point for Democrats.
Still Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) granted cloture votes on four amendments tackling various aspects the four pillars. But those proposals were doomed even before Senate votes were cast. In one extreme case, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent out “press releases” harshly critiquing every proposal except for the one sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), which hewed closest to Trump’s four pillars.
ThinkProgress spoke with at least two former DHS officials who were appalled by the nature of the press releases. One questioned the lack of attribution and the length of the “screed.” Another former senior DHS official said it was “pretty crazy that DHS would openly criticize two senators of their own Party.” The individual also said that it was “really highly unusual to see such stark politicking from a national security Cabinet-level department.”
All four Senate amendments failed, with Grassley’s proposal, which included cuts to the legal immigration system, receiving the least support. But this was to be expected, as Democrats have been clear that they would never support an amendment that, some immigrant advocates say, would militarize the border and increase enforcement efforts. Despite this, Republicans disingenuously claimed that they took a mainstream approach. As the Washington Post pointed out, “a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that only 17 percent of Americans favor cuts to legal immigration, while 81 percent favor legalizing the dreamers.” And, as the publication also pointed out, Democrats appeared willing to make some concessions (like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) initially giving into demands of a border wall), but Republicans appeared unwilling to make any concessions at all.
Thursday’s votes highlighted the lack of bipartisanship in Congress and made it clear that Republicans aren’t trying very hard to show they care about the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants.