Time is running out as the Senate scrambles to put together a compromise with the White House on immigration as advocates call for a clean DREAM Act
As tensions mount in Washington on the immigration front, the closely-watched immigration talks in Washington hit yet another impasse in the effort to protect undocumented youth.
Each of the four bipartisan proposals introduced in the Senate this week failed to garner the 60 votes on Thursday, February 15 needed to advance the legislation.
“I think it’s safe to say this has been a disappointing week,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on the Senate floor following failed series of votes.
With the failure of all the proposed bills, the Senate is forced to go back to the drawing board. What followed was a series of partisan finger-pointing with Republicans blaming Democrats for the stalemates in the immigration debate.
“Remember, Democrats wanted this debate. They shut the federal government for 300 million Americans — unnecessarily — to guarantee we could have this debate at this time,” McConnell said, referencing the January 19 shutdown following the failure to compromise on a federal spending package.
McConnell’s counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who has been a key Democrat in the immigration talks, attributed the roadblocks to Trump, who he said has been vocal about his conditions on the immigration bill.
“This vote is proof that President Trump’s plan will never become law,” Schumer asserted on Twitter on Thursday after the vote. “If he would stop torpedoing bipartisan efforts, a good bill would pass.”
What was being voted on?
The first bill — introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D-D.E.) and John McCain (R-AZ) — would have granted legal status to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) but did not provide funding for the controversial border wall.
The narrowly-tailored Coons-McCain bill failed 52-47 with largely Democratic support and Republican opposition.
The second proposal came from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) didn’t address DACA or border security at all. Instead, it called for the penalization of self-designated sanctuary cities (jurisdictions that have pledged not to aid and abet federal immigration operations) who refuse to enforce federal immigration policy by suppressing federal funds to these cities.
Toomey’s bill failed 54-45 had significant Republican backing while Democrats mostly opposed it.
The third bill encompassed the broadest bipartisan deal and allotted $25 billion for border security, restricted family-reunification and “permanently deals with DACA recipients,” according to a statement from the senators, who call themselves the Common Sense Coalition.
This bill also garnered 54-45 with an almost unanimous favorable vote from Democrats.
The fourth and final bill that was proposed came from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) aligns closest to the demands of the Trump administration. Grassley’s bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for DREAmers, fund the border wall and significantly cut legal immigration, including family-based immigration and eliminate the diversity visa lottery.
Grassley’s bill received the least favor, garnering a 39-60 vote, suggesting that Trump’s preferred immigration plan, as it is, would not pass Congress.
The Senate’s failure to come up with an agreement has not only angered those in Congress but immigrant rights groups who, since DACA was first terminated in September, has called on Washington lawmakers to promptly find a solution for DREAMers.
In less than three weeks, on March 5, DACA is set to expire. Two federal judges have called for a temporary halt on the deadline, but immigrant rights activists and organizations are pushing for a solution before the deadline.
Legal and civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA has been calling for a clean DREAM Act bill that would grant nearly 1.8 million undocumented youth with a pathway to citizenship.
“After 163 days of living in limbo, Congress is forcing immigrant youth to wait longer still while politicians take a week-long holiday instead of staying in town to find a solution,” Advancing Justice-LA said in a statement. “Asian Americans Advancing Justice urges the President to make good on his promise to undocumented youth and support a clean DREAM Act. The clear rejection of the administration’s proposal should demonstrate that the administration’s attempt to give ultimatums is a failing proposition.”
The DREAM Act, which was first introduced by a bipartisan group of senators in 2001, has a long history of proposals but not one form of the bill has passed both chambers of Congress. According to a Politico/Morning Consult Poll conducted last year, 76 percent of Americans support providing eligible DREAMers with citizenship. (Klarize Medenilla/AJ Press)