An effort to protect young Dreamer immigrants from deportation never really
had much chance of squeezing into the last bill Congress must pass this
election year. That's why bargainers from both parties were surprised when the
White House tried anyway.
The catch: It was bait to win more money for President Donald Trump's
precious border wall with Mexico. The last-gasp White House attempt came
as bargainers completed the huge spending measure that lawmakers aim to
approve this week, participants and observers of the budget negotiations
The effort failed, and Trump ended up getting just $1.6 billion for his
wall and other
border security steps, a year's worth of funds. That left prospects dim that Congress
would act this year to renew the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
program, or DACA, as Democrats eyeing a potential House takeover in November's
elections become increasingly resistant to helping Trump build his wall.
"Until they stop acting like idiots and stop trying to use Dreamers
as hostages to pass their stupid xenophobic laws and stupid ideas like
the border wall, nothing changes," Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., a
member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said Wednesday.
Trump took a different view, expressed in a tweet late Wednesday: "Democrats
refused to take care of DACA. Would have been so easy, but they just didn't
care. I had to fight for Military and start of Wall."
By one account, Trump began calling congressional GOP leaders two weeks
ago saying he wanted long-term funding for his wall and would trade it
for a short-term renewal of DACA. Trump ended the program last year, though
federal judges have ordered the administration to keep renewing DACA's
two-year permits until legal challenges to Trump's action are resolved.
A different person said that in talks Sunday at the Capitol, White House
officials said they wanted $25 billion — the full amount Trump has
proposed for the wall — in exchange for extending DACA protections
through September 2020. When Democrats countered that for that sum they
wanted a chance at citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants in DACA, the
White House turned it down and chances for a deal dissipated.
The program, created by President Barack Obama, temporarily shields from
deportation a group of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
The talks were described by aides and advocacy groups from both sides
on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were conducted privately.
Bargainers discussed trading a three-year DACA extension for three years
of wall money, some sources said, or five for five. Some said the administration
went further and also wanted Democrats to include more money for enforcement
agents and beds for detained immigrants and include language making it
easier to deport immigrants in gangs, steps they were unwilling to take.
Even a simpler compromise — a DACA extension for wall money —
has encountered opposition from both sides but internal divisions, too.
Large numbers of Republicans don't want to protect immigrants here
illegally, period, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has been reluctant
to call a House vote on any proposal a GOP majority opposes. Other Republicans
have wanted a deal, arguing that immigrants help the economy and booting
hundreds of thousands of them who've lived here since childhood can
be a damaging political problem in November.
"We just blew a great opportunity to do something substantial on immigration,"
said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who's long sought a bipartisan deal
on the issue. "I think the White House overplayed their hand."
Some Democrats say bringing any stability to immigrants perpetually worried
about deportation would be worth the trade-off. But many despise the idea
of helping Trump build his wall in exchange for a temporary reprieve for
They also remember the first two months of this year when Trump seemed
to embrace several efforts at compromise, only to walk away from them
after conservatives objected. And they have bitter memories of White House
opposition to a bipartisan plan that the Senate rejected last month after
Trump's Department of
Homeland Security distributed a memo saying the proposal "ignores the lessons of 9/11"
and would "be the end of immigration enforcement in America."
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said that statement was "not the way to
communicate in this situation."
REVILLA LAW FIRM, P.A.
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