Lawmakers from both parties insisted Wednesday that they’re still racing to reach a deal on Dreamers — despite a court ruling the night before temporarily reinstating the immigration program that President Donald Trump is trying to shut down.
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Trump’s effort to completely shut down the Obama-era initiative known Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — a ruling that, in theory, will allow people who have already obtained DACA permits in the past to renew them. The program allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children to obtain work permits and remain in the country.
Democrats and immigration advocates worry the Trump administration will quickly appeal the decision and prevail. Meanwhile, Republicans dispute the findings of the judge, San Francisco-based U.S. District Court judge William Alsup, and believe the White House will win an appeal.
“It doesn’t change the need for us to act,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “I don’t think it relieves the anxiety of the DACA recipients that something is gonna happen. It really just adds additional uncertainty, I think, into the mix. So we’re plowing ahead like we discussed yesterday at the White House.”
Cornyn is one of four top lawmakers — the others include Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — who are trying to meet with administration officials later Wednesday to sketch out next steps on an immigration deal in Congress.
Key Senate Democrats also stressed that Congress still needs to press for a Dreamers deal.
“Let me be very clear: The ruling last night in no way diminishes the urgency of resolving the DACA issue,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday morning. “The only way to guarantee the legal status for Dreamers is to pass DACA protections into law and do it now.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) sounded less confident that the ruling wouldn’t ease pressure on Congress, which often needs a deadline to act.
“I hope it doesn’t” lessen the urgency on Congress, Flake said of the ruling. “But I am worried.”
The substance of the judge’s ruling — which included Alsup’s assessment that Trump’s move to wind down DACA was meant to improve the White House’s bargaining position on immigration — could embolden Democrats to take a harder line against accepting various conservative demands as part of an immigration deal.
Democrats have already started to raise alarms about the mere contours of an agreement, which would include not only a permanent protection for Dreamers but border security provisions and changes to family-based immigration laws and the diversity visa lottery.
In an interview with POLITICO late Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former House Democratic leader, contended: “Why would anyone want to negotiate a bad deal to get DACA now that it’s become clear the court is saying the Trump administration may have tried to repeal the program in an unlawful way?”
“I hope it can be a moderating influence on the other side, the Republican side, upon some of their demands,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said. “But at the end of the day, I think that in order to make a deal, a deal implies there’s negotiations by both sides.”
Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the White House said they disagreed with the ruling, though neither said said directly whether the administration would appeal Alsup’s decision.
But White House legislative director Marc Short said Wednesday on NPR that the ruling doesn’t relieve the urgency for Congress to reach an immigration deal.
“If we let this drag out, the risk would be that the Supreme Court would say yeah we’re overturning the decision and immediately DACA ends,” Short said on NPR. “And so it’s better to give us some opportunity to find a legislative fix as opposed to risking status for all those individuals.”
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