The government shutdown ended last night when president Trump signed the CR extending governmental funding through Feb. 8. The divisive bipartisan compromise is being criticized from progressives for not including a more resolute decision on a fix for DACA. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to hold debates and a vote on a permanent fix on DACA by Feb. 8 in exchange for Democratic support. The decision left thousands of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children cast in the same murky doubt they’ve existed in since Trump brashly shuttered the program in September.
The major cause for Democratic dissent on the decision was what they saw as another promise in a series of promises that Congressional Republicans have made in regards to DACA over the past four months. Those previous promises were not honored. “I refuse to put the lives of nearly 700,000 young people in the hands of someone who has repeatedly gone back on his word,” said Sen. Kamala Harris.
Even if McConnell holds true to his word, his promise was only made in regards to the Senate, leaving numerous questions about how the DACA issue will be handled within the House. Speaker Paul Ryan has gone on record as saying that he’d only entertain immigration policy that the president would be behind. With Trump shifting his position on immigration reform constantly, the precedent set by Ryan shrouds any attempt to healthily discuss DACA provisions on the House floor in layers of doubt. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he has “no confidence, zero, that Paul Ryan will bring a measure to the floor, in fact on the contrary.”
If anything is going to force a DACA discussion to take place before the March 5 deadline set by the president, Trump is going to have to solidify his stance. Publicly, he has preached that he wants a resolution to DACA, calling for a “deal of love.” Privately, he has spouted racist rhetoric and continues to battle forces inside and outside the White House on his promised border wall. The White House continues to say that it wants to install protections for Dreamers, but, as the government shutdown ended yesterday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders would not confirm that the White House would support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
While Congressional Democrats are divided by the perceived empty promises and doubt cast from the White House and Capitol Hill, the true victims are the Dreamers. Living in doubt since September, thousands of young people face deportation if a deal isn’t made by March 5. Yesterday’s compromise left many immigration rights groups feeling defeated and left out in the cold by the Democratic party, whose short-lived hardline stance over the weekend gave way to what they saw as another naive cave-in. Speaking to The NYT, Frank Sharry, executive director of immigrant rights group America’s Voice, said, “Last week, I was moved to tears of joy when Democrats stood up and fought for progressive values and for Dreamers. Today I am moved to tears of disappointment and anger that Democrats blinked.”
Now that the government is funded again, for the next few weeks at least, the waiting game that has persisted since September will continue. Dreamers will continue to look toward Congress to decide their fate as they continue to assert their voice. The president’s position cannot continue to be defined by whatever the people in the given room at the time say it should be. The Democrats have lost some amount of trust among the Dreamers and the only way they can recover any amount of it is if they find the backbone they swiftly lost over the weekend. For now, we wait and hope that Congress does the right thing.