In mid-February, the Senate turned its attention to immigration for the first time since it passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill back in 2013. The 2013 bill never made it to President Obama’s desk after Republican hardliners in the House blocked it, despite widespread public support for it. The last time Congress attempted to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Senate was controlled by Democrats. That meant that even though the 2013 bill wasn’t perfect, it was insulated from the most extreme, anti-immigrant Republicans attacks. That wasn't the case this time around. With Republicans in control of both chambers, and with a white supremacist in the White House egging on the most extreme among them, the debate on the Senate floor quickly turned quickly. Here's what happened.
AN UNUSUAL PROCESS
Mitch McConnell introduced a “shell bill”—basically a placeholder bill that each party then took turns trying to amend with different immigration proposals. None of the proposals received the necessary 60 votes for passage. But the process revealed exactly where the two sides stand on the issue. Republicans offered exactly what you would expect: anti-immigrant bills intended to advance Donald Trump's nativist agenda. Their bills attacked immigrant communities, would have dramatically increased internal enforcement, and would have permanently restricted family migration. Unfortunately, even the bill the Democrats were pushing for crossed strict red lines that immigration rights advocates laid out for them. The Democratic proposal, "Rounds-King," was really a Republican proposal, the result of negotiations led by Sen. Collins (R-ME). It was a bad bill. Yes, it would have provide relief for Dreamers, but it would have also increased internal enforcement, meaning more deportations, and would have attacked family migration. For this reason, Indivisible and a majority of the immigration groups opposed it, including United We Dream.
WHAT COMES NEXT
Congress still has time to act before the March 5 DACA cliff, when 1,200 DACA recipients will begin to lose their protections every single day. They'll have a week before then to pass legislation providing relief for Dreamers -- but it'll require Republicans rejecting Trump's racist demands. It's important for you to tell your MoCs to do their job and protect their communities by passing a clean Dream Act now.
THE OUTCOME WE WANT
We want a “clean” Dream Act, which provides relief for Dreamers but that does not further fund or expand Trump’s deportation machine. Short of the Dream Act, we need Democrats to push for as limited a bill as possible. It must include relief for Dreamers, but should not include the harmful, nativist provisions that the White House has proposed.