Lawmakers have been given until March to sort out a legislative approach to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals DACA program or face having it taken away completely. President Trump’s ultimatum has forced politicians on all sides to do something that is rarely considered: compromise.
Due to the working majorities in both Houses, the onus has fallen to Republicans to craft a DACA deal that will not only appeal to their support base, but one that will also pass with few challenges from Democrats and (the very important in close votes) Independents.
The legislative fix that Senators are working towards would allow protections for childhood arrivals in return for increased border security, a limiting of immigration numbers, an end (or limitation) to chain immigration and a “down payment” on legislation to move the immigration system to a more merit-based structure.
There is only on clear Democrat “red-line” at the moment: no action on mandatory workplace verification.
A recent poll has shown that Americans are somewhat in line with President Trump’s wishes that an immigration policy be both effective yet compassionate. The President said:
“Most of [the Dreamers] went through our system. Many of them don’t speak the language of their country because they’ve never been to their country. We are going to try and solve that,” during a Fox News interview. “In order to solve that, we want a wall and we want great border security.”
So there is clearly a will to protect “Dreamers.” But what few in the media are willing to report is that immigration reform attached to the DACA deal is a precarious area, specifically for Democrats.
It is well-known that Democrats receive a larger proportion of immigrant votes than Republicans, and as such, try to be the more “pro-immigrant” party. They are faced with a choice to either protect the immigrants that are already in the country, or advocate for immigrants that may come (legally or illegally) to the U.S. in the future.
If they refuse the Republican DACA deal on the basis of potential future immigrants being impacted, it is the “Dreamers” who will be most affected. If they take the deal that protects DACA recipients at a cost to potential future immigrants, it may destabilize any future votes (and of course, their image).
Many pundits are suggesting that this DACA deal is a win-win situation for Republican lawmakers. They have an opportunity to look after people who reside in the United States (regardless of immigration status) and achieve comprehensive immigration reform that is wanted by the majority of the electorate. On the other side, it is difficult to see how Democrats can make this a win for themselves.
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.