Update on DACA and the Dream Act

Since the Senate’s failure to pass clean protections for Dreamers in February, Congress has abandoned its promise to protect Dreamers and turned its focus towards the upcoming elections. That said, there have still been important developments in the courts and in Congress that you should be aware of. Here’s what you need to know.

So Many Court Cases, So Little Time

Since Trump’s announcement that he would end DACA, two federal courts (one in California and one in New York) have ruled that the Trump administration’s decision was unlawful and that the Trump administration must continue to accept DACA renewal applications (but not new applications). Since January, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has continued to accept DACA renewals, which means that some DACA recipients have been able to extend their DACA protections. For more information about the DACA renewal process, see here.  

We can now add a third federal court to the list: In April, a federal judge in Washington D.C. ruled that ending DACA was unlawful. This judge went further, and ruled that the administration must accept new DACA applications. Here’s the catch: this ruling doesn’t go into effect for 90 days. For the time being, nothing has practically changed. Additionally, the 90 days may provide the Trump Administration a new opportunity to re-issue their DACA rescision memo, which could throw a wrench into the ongoing legal challenges.

In short, court cases are helpful, but Dreamers need permanent protections and that’s Congress’s responsibility. We need a clean Dream Act.

Republicans Are Still Attacking DACA

Attorneys General in Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia have come together to file a lawsuit in a Texas federal district court against the federal government aiming to end the DACA program. The lawsuit aims to freeze ongoing DACA renewal process and ultimately end DACA.

At the moment, we don’t know when the lawsuit will be heard in court. That being said, even if this court rules against DACA, three courts have already ruled in favor of DACA and USCIS will still accept renewal applications as these cases go through the courts.

In short, DACA has been a successful program with widespread public support and multiple courts have ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to end it. This new lawsuit shows that Republicans are scared and desperate to end this program.

What’s the Queen of the Hill Strategy?

You may have heard rumblings of a last ditch effort by vulnerable House Republicans and some Democrats to bring a DACA solution for a vote. They’re using an obscure process called the “Queen-of-the-Hill” rule, which would allow the House to vote on a sequence of proposals and the proposal with the most votes above a simple majority would be the one that ultimately passes.

This particular “Queen-of-The-Hill” rule is H.Res.774 and was introduced by Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA-10) and Will Hurd (R-TX-23). It would bring four DACA-related proposals for a vote (For more information, check out our explainer on all the proposals included in the rule):

  • A proposal by Rep. Roybal-Allard (CA-40), who is the lead sponsor of the DREAM Act
  • A proposal by Rep. Denham (CA-10), who is a co-lead of the USA Act
  • A proposal by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA-06), who is the lead sponsor of a House Freedom-Caucus backed bill that conditions temporary protections for Dreamers on permanent cuts to family immigration and massive spending for ICE, CBP, and the Wall
  • A proposal from Paul Ryan (WI-01) that would most likely be backed by Trump.

H.Res.774 has a whopping 247 bipartisan cosponsors, including 52 Republicans. However, given Paul Ryan’s ongoing refusal to bring any serious DACA solution for a vote, there is a low likelihood that he will bring the “Queen-of-the-Hill” rule for a vote anytime soon.

What is the path forward for Queen of the Hill?

At the moment, some Members are considering the option of bringing a discharge petition up in order to force a floor vote on this rule and kickstart the debate.  The petition currently has over 200 signers, with 20 Republicans currently on board and more potentially jumping on in the coming days. A successful discharge petition would require 218 signatures, with 25 Republicans bucking party leadership and signing on along with every Democrat.

While the discharge petition looks like it could be successful, there is no guarantee that it could result in a floor vote. Speaker Paul Ryan  could cancel votes or change the legislative calendar to restrict the days that the petition could be discharged.

There is also a chance that, in the event that the discharge petition were successful, the rule was passed by a floor vote, and the debate were therefore kickstarted- the bill that ultimately prevails is one that we can’t support, which is why this strategy is not without significant risk.

In short, this is a Republican-controlled Congress and Republicans don’t buck their leadership, which means that getting the bill we want — a clean Dream Act — remains very unlikely. If anything changes, we’ll keep you updated.

Farm Bill Catastrophe

During the recent fight over the failed Farm Bill, the House Freedom Caucus demanded that the House vote on the “Goodlatte-McCaul” immigration bill (the same one mentioned above that’s included in the Queen of the Hill rule) in exchange for passing the Farm Bill. The Freedom Caucus blocked the Farm Bill on the House floor after Republican leadership tried to force it through without meeting their demands.

Since the debacle, GOP leadership has officially scheduled a vote on Goodlatte-McCaul for the third week of June as well as another shot at the Farm Bill.

In its current form, Goodlatte-McCaul does not have enough votes to pass in the House even among moderates. That said, there is the possibility that Rep. Goodlatte could release an amended version with enough changes to scrape by with the support of moderate Republicans.

Bottom Line

At this point, Dreamers’ best hope for permanent protection will be if we take back Congress. Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have continuously shown that they are more willing to deport Dreamers than protect them, despite promises and praise for Dreamers. Come November, we need to oust Republicans who have enabled Trump’s white supremacist agenda and elect progressives who will stand with Dreamers.