Nevada’s congressional Democrats say they’ll fight “tooth and nail” to protect participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But their tough talk imperils the chances of a bipartisan compromise that would benefit the very people they claim to champion.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced he would end DACA in six months. Then-President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012 via executive action. DACA allowed illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to receive work authorization and administrative protection from deportation. In Nevada, around 13,000 have signed up for the program.
The impetus for Trump’s decision was a coalition of Republican attorneys general promising to challenge DACA in court if he didn’t end it. They had set a Tuesday deadline.
The lawsuit almost certainly would have succeeded. In 2016, a deadlocked Supreme Court left in place an injunction on a similar Obama program that applied to adults. It was the right decision, since the Constitution gives the legislative branch the responsibility to make immigration policy. Obama’s executive action was a blatant executive power grab.
Although Trump is winding DACA down, he’s been sympathetic to children brought to the U.S. illegally. He could have ended DACA in January. He left it in place until the AGs forced his hand. Even so, the program will remain in place for six months to give Congress time to pass a constitutionally valid fix. Trump’s press secretary said Tuesday that he wants DACA to be part of a larger immigration bill.
Rather than acknowledge these realities, Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, said DACA participants “are now being placed squarely in the crosshairs of President Trump’s deportation force.” Rep. Ruben Kihuen further attacked Trump, “[T]his administration has proven time and again their only goal is to foster anti-immigrant and divisive rhetoric.” How Trump signaling he would sign a bill that includes DACA squares with either a “deportation force” or fostering “anti-immigrant” rhetoric wasn’t explained.
Although Republicans control both chambers of Congress, they need Democrat votes to pass a bill. Policy bills require 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate.
The compromise looks obvious: Republicans support DACA, which means voting for a limited amnesty, and Democrats support border security measures, including funding for Trump’s wall, and increased internal enforcement measures, like mandating the use of E-Verify.
Given their minority status, enshrining DACA into law would be a significant policy win for Democrats.
But their statements show Democrats remain divisive — and might be getting greedy. Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said Trump’s decision shows “he stands with racists.” Rep. Dina Titus said Trump has “xenophobia.”
So Trump offers an immigration olive branch — a window to pass something Democrats have long claimed to want — and Democrats respond with verbal grenades? It suggests the highest priority of Nevada’s congressional Democrats isn’t passing a DACA compromise, but pressing the issue for political advantage.
A majority of Americans support providing legal status for DACA participants. But if Congress passes a DACA bill, Trump and Republicans will get the credit ahead of the midterm elections. Would Democrats stall a compromise and draw a hard line against a border wall solely to hammer Republicans in 2018? Would they rather go all in for the election of a Democrat president and Congress in 2020 — no sure thing — so they can pass an immigration bill that doesn’t include more border walls?
That strategy guarantees current DACA participants stay in limbo for at least three years.
Democrats’ rhetoric suggests that, far from fighting “tooth and nail” for a favored constituency, they’re much more interested in political gain.