Dizzying Week of Dialogue Over Immigration Still Leaves Democrats and Republicans Far Apart

By Alfonso Serrano Jan 11, 2018

A dizzying week of immigration news has seen President Donald Trump discuss comprehensive immigration reform with congressional leaders on live television, Trump administration officials promise to fight a federal injunction that blocks White House plans to rescind work permits for young immigrants, and the presentation of a House Republican measure that would crack down on undocumented immigration and sharply curb the number of immigrants admitted into the United States.

Despite the flurry of action, Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on how and when to tackle the various immigration proposals. Many Democrats want to attach a solution for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to the spending bill that must be signed by January 19 to keep the federal government running. Republicans, however, have balked at that proposal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insists that the spending bill and DACA deal will be considered separately.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are saying that a bipartisan compromise on the fate of DACA recipients, or Dreamers, could come as early as this week. That potential deal is centered on four issues: a solution for Dreamers, border security, the visa lottery and family-based migration, according to Reuters.

Immigration advocates are pressuring Democrats to avoid conceding too much to Republicans on a comprehensive immigration deal. A deal for Dreamers, they say, should not come at the expense of strict restrictions on family-based migration. Brent Wilkes, CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told The Hill:

The idea of the diversity lottery and family-based immigration being changed, that’s just not a serious offer. You’re asking for the moon and giving the smallest thing in return. They haven’t made the case why a U.S. citizen shouldn’t be able to bring in relatives. They paint the worst-case example of someone who has brought in 20 relatives, but the reality is a much slower process and much fewer people.

Business leaders echo that support for Dreamers. On Wednesday, more than 100 corporate leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook, called on Congress to provide immediate relief for young immigrants. Their letter reads, in part: 

We have seen time and again that the overwhelming majority of the American public of all political backgrounds agrees that we should protect Dreamers from deportation. While delay or inaction will cause significant negative impact to businesses, hundreds of thousands of deserving young people across the country are counting on you to work in a bipartisan way to pass permanent legislative protection for Dreamers without further delay.

President Trump insists that any deal for Dreamers must include $18 billion in funding for a border wall. Yesterday (January 10), Trump denounced federal courts as “broken and unfair” after U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a temporary injunction that prevents the Trump administration from ending DACA. The administration vowed to appeal the decision. 

Amid the immigration seesaw, House Republicans on Wednesday (January 10) promoted an immigration proposal that would deny federal grants to sanctuary cities, permit the detention of minors arrested at the border, and end family-based migration except for spouses and minor children, according to The New York Times. The measure, panned by immigration advocates, would also offer DACA recipients three-renewable permits, but no path toward citizenship. Lorella Praeli of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Times the measure amounts to a "collection of hard-line provisions designed to sabotage, rather than advance, the possibility of a bipartisan breakthrough."