Early Friday morning, a contentious Congress passed a two-year budget bill that did not include protections for Dreamers, ending the litany of short-term spending bills that have threatened government shutdowns every few weeks since September, but that Democrats have also been using as leverage in the immigration debate.
The bill raises the debt ceiling in order to support a significant increase in funds to military spending, as well as increased funds to some domestic initiatives, a concession the GOP was forced to make in order to earn the votes of some Democrats. Republican Senator Rand Paul temporarily held up a vote on the bill with a speech that lambasted Republicans for their hypocrisy on spending increases.
On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made history with an 8-hour demand to secure protections for Dreamers, the longest speech ever delivered on the floor of the House of Representatives. Pelosi urged her colleagues not to vote for the long-term budget deal without first getting a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a vote on a bill that would grant legal status to young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
After the budget deal passed, Pelosi released a statement reading, “The fight in the House to protect Dreamers is not over. I’m greatly disappointed that the Speaker does not have the courage to lift the shadow of fear from the lives of these inspiring young people. When we protect Dreamers, we honor the highest ideals of America. Their patriotism, their perseverance, their optimism are an inspiration that stirs the conscience of our entire nation.”
After the vote succeeded in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a vote on Monday to proceed with crafting an immigration bill. In order to craft the bill, the senators will be offering amendments to an unrelated House bill that will serve as a vehicle. The competing proposals will then be voted on to see which ones are able to secure the required 60 votes.
But securing a bill that can pass the House, earn 60-votes in the Senate, and get the signature of the President appears an increasingly difficult task. Meanwhile the arbitrary March 5 deadline set by the President to extend protections for Dreamers looms in the near future.
Democrats have been willing to grant a moderate increase in border security spending in exchange for protecting Dreamers, which could include as many as 1.8 million young people. But the President and conservative lawmakers are insisting on a number of hardline concessions like building a border wall, limiting family members of immigrants, and ending the diversity lottery system, measures that aim to cut legal immigration in half.
Meanwhile, 122 DACA recipients lose their protections each day, largely because they are afraid to apply to renew their DACA status, fearing that the information they provide could soon be used against them.
Media Resources: Ms. Magazine 2/7/18; CNN 2/9/18; Feminist Newswire 1/25/18; CNBC 2/9/18