The world’s most listless and impotent – err, “greatest” – deliberative body shelved further debate over the future of DACA more than three weeks ago, after senators voted down four proposals, one of which didn’t address the question at all, over the course of about an hour.
Even with a pair of court decisions delaying its expiration date, which was supposed to hit on Monday, the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is now rolling downhill to collapse. Nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants, brought into the country – the only home many of them have ever known – as minors, will over the coming months, or weeks, lose their shield against deportation. Some already have.
President Donald Trump again howled over the Senate’s failure on Monday, lashing out at Democrats for, as he put it, going missing. In reality, they simply refused to vote for the White House’s preferred legislation, which would not only have funded his promised border wall, but also slashed legal immigration – an issue that was not, until Trump took office, much of a topline concern to Republicans or candidate Trump.
“It’s March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. Gave them 6 months, they just don’t care,” Trump chirped. “Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!”
Hmm. Let’s examine that.
To start, no matter how one feels about Democratic officials and their tactics, and many immigration activists feel quite angry and/or disappointed in both, there is one quite obvious point that bears repeating here:
DACA is ending because Trump ended it.
Was he under pressure from Republicans to act? Yes. Was one of them his own attorney general? Indeed, though Trump has shown himself to be ready, eager and willing to ignore or publicly scorn Jeff Sessions.
As for the congressional GOP’s work-rate, well, let’s consider Majority Whip John Cornyn’s assessment from February.
“I don’t see it,” he said of the potential for a new round of talks. “We couldn’t get it together this week. We’ve got other things we have to do, which are pressing.”
So, yes, Republicans might well be working hard, but no, it’s not on pursuing a viable path to salvage DACA. (Their forthcoming exertions will likely be dedicated to rolling back bank regulations, with a helper from finance-friendly Democrats.) No matter what Trump argues, and he’s made this claim repeatedly on Twitter, the facts are clear. Democrats’ fault here, as it relates to the current impasse, only goes as far as their unwillingness to offer an outright capitulation.
What’s more, Trump had every opportunity to both protect DACA recipients on the brink and deliver on his dearest campaign trail promise. Democratic lawmakers had been largely willing to exchange billions of dollars for border wall construction in exchange for some kind of legislation to save DACA and the “dreamers,” a wider swath of the mostly young, DACA-eligible undocumented immigrants.
In the end, though, Trump couldn’t bring himself to take yes for an answer.
Instead, he rejected the framework of a deal that would have, with the stroke of a pen, given him a major “win” to lord over Democrats ahead of the midterm elections and into the 2020 presidential cycle, while simultaneously turning down the temperature on an issue that, according to all available polling, breaks heavily in Democrats’ favor.
The two sides retreated from their brief visit to the bargaining table and, as of now, seem happy enough to cede the decision to some combination of the courts and voters in November. On the strategic front, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Trump and Republicans, who are expected to see their grip on Congress loosen in 2019.
As a humanitarian question, it’s a much worse development.
DACA recipients will, in their best case scenario, live the coming year on tenterhooks awaiting higher court decisions on their fate. And if, as expected, the administration is eventually allowed to scrap their protections, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have shown themselves to be a potent force.
What follows on from there will be Trump’s to own – whether he likes it or not.