Dreamers in limbo as Trump plan to prevent Senate action succeeds
Dreamers sitting in at Senate offices. | United We Dream Facebook page

WASHINGTON—After almost a week of debate, intense maneuvering, backroom bargaining, and a nasty ultimatum from GOP President Donald Trump, four separate pieces of legislation affecting the “Dreamers” – two good and two bad – went down the drain in the U.S. Senate.

That leaves the fate of the Dreamers, the 690,000-800,000 people brought to the U.S. as children but who have grown up to be unionized construction workers and teachers, U.S. soldiers, college graduates and more, up to federal courts, Trump, or both.

Rejecting attempts by GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to blame Democrats, the Dreamers and their allies, including unions, pinned the blame on Trump.

“What we will remember about today is that Trump failed the American people,” said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Trump pushed behind the scenes to defeat even the GOP plan that gave him money for his wall and limited family migration. Observers saw this as proof that, pandering to his right wing extremist base, the president has no intention to resolve the Dreamer issue and is willing to allow hundreds of thousands to remain in limbo and live in fear.

All four measures, including the original Dream Act, needed 60 votes to clear a potential Senate filibuster, mounted in this case by right-wing Trumpist Republicans dead set against anything they view as “amnesty” for the undocumented people.

The Dream Act actually had majority support, garnering 54 out of 100 votes, including six Republicans. Only one of the 49 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, voted against it. He joined 44 Republicans.

A weaker compromise, letting the Dreamers legally stay by basically reinstating the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which brought them out of the shadows for the last five years, in return for building Trump’s Mexican Wall, garnered a 52-47 margin. But it, too, needed 60 votes.

An extreme measure by Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., cracking down on “sanctuary cities” and states – such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and the entire state of California – that refuse to order their police to cooperate with federal roundups of undocumented people, “Dreamers” or otherwise, attracted most of the GOPers, and a 54-45 vote. As bad as that bill was, it wasn’t enough.

Trump’s plan finished last, losing 39-60, with 11 Republicans opposing it. Trump would legalize the Dreamers after a 12-year torturous road, eliminate what he derisively calls “chain migration,” where citizens and permanent residents can seek legal residence for close relatives, kill a diversity visa program that brings in more migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, and erect his Mexican Wall.

With the Senate’s failure on Feb. 15, the Dreamers originally faced a March 5 deadline, mandated by Trump, when deportations would start. But two federal district judges have stepped in, so far, with injunctions stopping Trump’s deportations. The GOP-run House showed no inclination to consider any Dreamer bills, only Trump’s nativist anti-Latino crackdown.

“When the president ended DACA five months ago, he set in motion a crisis jeopardizing the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people and their families. He then demanded his entire anti-immigrant wish-list as ransom to restore these young people’s protections,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Dreamers’ prime proponent there. Democrats “made enormous concessions” – including Trump’s wall – to pass the Dream Act, but “the president and his enablers in Congress rejected them all, never once budging from their own partisan plan.”

“This crisis isn’t going away, and I will not rest until these young people and their families have the future in America they deserve,” Durbin vowed.

The Dreamers vow to continue fighting. So do their backers, including workers and their allies.

“We REJECT any bill that pits us against our own immigrant communities. We don’t want a Blackmail Bill – we want a clean #DreamActNow,” their lead organization, United We Dream, tweeted. The Dreamers spent the prior week on Capitol Hill lobbying – and in some cases sitting in – for their cause.

“Trump killed #DACA & has now opposed two bipartisan proposals, including the Rounds and Graham-Durbin deal,” tweeted Hector Figueroa, president of Service Employees Local 32BJ, a janitors local with high Hispanic-speaking membership. “We can’t support policies to persecute our parents because we love them. Congress should deliver a breakthrough to protect people.”

“Workers have rights, regardless of their status,” said Rusty Hicks, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. California houses the greatest number of Dreamers: 220,000.

“We remain united with the 1,000,000 undocumented immigrants in LA County as we fight together in the courts, Congress, and the streets to demand dignity and protections for all working people,” Hicks added. “There are those who would exploit fear and bigotry to try and divide us. They will not succeed.”

But D Taylor, president of Unite Here, whose union is also heavily Spanish-speaking, warned Democrats may pay at the polls this November for the Senate failure, anyway. “American voters are really smart—they know when they’re being played, they know when they’re being placated,” he told Newsweek. “Democrats have to demonstrate they’re willing to go to the wall for Latino voters.”

“Trump killed DACA and he is now responsible for killing bipartisan efforts to protect Dreamers in the Senate,” New Mexico’s Lujan Grisham elaborated. “Trump’s actions to derail these efforts show he has no interest in protecting Dreamers or reaching a bipartisan compromise, which the vast majority of Americans want. Trump cares more about extracting extreme immigration policies and a useless border wall than protecting the lives of Dreamers.”

“Now, because Trump sabotaged the progress of bipartisan legislation, we’ll continue to see this crisis worsen as Dreamers continue to lose their jobs and others are detained and deported. But one important thing that’s clear after today’s vote is the White House’s framework is a loser. We call on House Republicans to learn from this and work with us to find a narrow, tailored solution that protects Dreamers.” The House’s ruling Republicans show no inclination to work in a bipartisan way.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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