Washington power brokers appear no closer to reaching a deal on border security funding and immigration, leaving Dreamer workers and students in limbo and the federal government in shutdown.
President Donald Trump in a speech on Saturday tried to use the Dreamers’ legal status as a bargaining chip to get funding for a border wall, but congressional Democrats thus far have rejected the proposal.
It was a surprising turnaround from his previous vows to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Trump told the nation Saturday that he would extend the program three years and cancel the government shutdown if Congress will give him $5.7 billion for walls. He also said he would grant certain immigrants Temporary Protected Status (TPS) another three years as well.
“That is our plan. Border security, DACA, TPS and many other things. Straightforward, fair, reasonable and common sense with lots of compromise,” Trump said.
Amidt the standoff, DACA workers and students learned they likely will be allowed to stay another year because of inaction on another front. The Supreme Court did not act Friday on the Trump administration’s request to end DACA, which shields from deportation individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children in an undocumented status. That means the Obama-era program is likely to survive another year.
After Trump’s speech Saturday, some Arizona congressional delegates reacted. Democrat Ruben Gallego said the shutdown must be lifted before immigration issues can be tackled. Others backed Trump.
“Let’s not get distracted. Trump needs to reopen the government. Today. Now. Then we can go back to legislating and trying to reach compromises on immigration, health care, education, and other important issues facing the country,” Rep. Gallego tweeted.
Arizona U.S. Republican Congresswoman Debbie Lesko issued a statement saying the president offered a “common sense plan that will address the humanitarian and security crisis currently happening at our Southern border plus ensure legal protection for the Dreamers who through no fault of their own were brought here illegally by their parents as a child. I sincerely hope that the Democrats will now finally come to the negotiating table to end this government shutdown and get federal government employees back to work with pay.”
Republican Senator Martha McSally sent out a tweet saying that the president’s proposal represents a significant step forward.
“I am hopeful that members from both sides of the aisle will come together to move us beyond this impasse so we can open up our government and secure our border,” she said.
Meanwhile, there is hope that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), will step in and mediate an end to the shutdown.
McConnell did not respond immediately to phone calls Monday but a report in the New York Times stated he is ready to leave the sidelines and broker a deal this week.
Sen. McConnell plans to bring up legislation to immediately reopen the government and incorporate President Trump’s proposal to offer temporary protections to some immigrants in exchange for border wall funding, a top aide to McConnell told the Times.
“The legislation that the majority leader will bring to the floor this week would both reopen the remaining portions of the government, fund disaster relief, fund border security and address immigration issues that both Republicans and Democrats would like to address — all in one bill,” McConnell’s deputy chief of staff Don Stewart told the newspaper.
Stewart stated that McConnell would like to see the measure pass by Friday, before 800,000 federal workers miss another payday.
Congress and the president have failed to agree on solutions for immigration reform, including providing protections for an estimated 11.4 million undocumented residents including about 800,000 Dreamers.
In Arizona, businesses have called repeatedly on Congress to provide legal protections, saying Dreamers represent much needed manpower and brain power for the state’s economic future. In Arizona, efforts are ongoing on several fronts to help.
Last week, Arizona U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick took a step and filed a bill that would allow Dreamers to work for Congress. Arizona Democratic Congressmen Ruben Gallego, Greg Stanton, Tom O’Halleran and Raúl Grijalva were among the co-sponsors.
Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber, said that he hopes compromise between the president and Congress comes soon to provide funding for secure borders and help these young people secure a future.
It’s not only important for the state’s economy, it’s the right thing to do, he said.
“Approximately 30,000 Arizonans have DACA protections, and most contribute in our workplaces, attend our colleges and universities, or serve in the military,” Hamer said.
According to research by New American Economy, a bipartisan research organization that advocates for immigration policies that help economic growth, the DACA-eligible population earns almost $19.9 billion in total income annually, and they contribute more than $1.4 billion to federal taxes and more than $1.6 billion to state and local taxes in the United States.
The White House should legalize their status and establish a path to eventual citizenship, Hamer said.