Editor’s Note: Charles E. Schumer is the US Senate minority leader. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
When President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has provided more than 800,000 young immigrants relief from deportation, he gave Congress six months to act.
The DACA program allowed young immigrants– brought to the US as children– who registered with the government, paid a fee and passed criminal security background checks, to come forward and fully contribute to our country without fear of deportation. The deadline he set is here and we still do not have a solution for these Dreamers, for one simple reason: President Trump is standing in the way.
When President Trump decided to wind down DACA, he set into motion a humanitarian crisis by slowly stripping thousands of Dreamers of their protections under the program as their status expires. Consequently, he asked Congress to work together on legislation that would protect Dreamers by March 5 and promised to treat Dreamers “with heart.” Many of us were ready to work with him to get this done.
Sadly, it has become increasingly clear that the President’s words were nothing but lip service. President Trump and the White House are not interested in solving this problem—they have so far tried to use Dreamers as bargaining chips to push forward their anti-immigrant agenda.
This is the opposite of what the American people want.
Overwhelmingly, Americans support Dreamers and want them to remain in the US. According to a recent CNN poll, 83% of Americans want us to let immigrants who meet the DACA qualifications stay in the country. The American people want a solution; they know that Dreamers represent some of the best of our country. Congress has the moral obligation to take action and to help them. And we’re ready to do just that, if President Trump can take yes for an answer.
Democrats have been at the negotiating table from day one, willing to work with Republicans and the administration to solve this crisis. I personally met with President Trump several times to negotiate a solution only to find that hours later he would back away and move the goal posts to the hard right to satisfy his base, demanding an endless list of extreme measures. He even turned down an agreement that would protect Dreamers in exchange for funding one of his biggest campaign promises – the wall on the border with Mexico.
In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans worked together to come up with several bipartisan bills, in which both sides made hard concessions. Democrats even took heat from some of our own for our willingness to compromise, but we were determined to find a solution.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) worked for months to find a bipartisan agreement and presented the President with a bill that addressed his four pillars – the Dream Act, increased border security, modifications to family reunification and reallocation of diversity visas, but President Trump rejected it.
A few weeks ago, for the first time in years, we had an open debate about immigration on the Senate floor, and it looked like bipartisanship just might win, but the Trump administration, from the President on down, killed that deal as well.
President Trump had plenty of opportunities to protect Dreamers, but nothing was enough to satisfy his administration’s anti-immigrant wish list.
While the Supreme Court announced last week that it would not take up the DACA case, meaning that for now DACA recipients are allowed to renew their status, it still falls on Congress and President Trump to provide permanent protection for Dreamers.
The Supreme Court decision helps shield some temporarily but it will not provide the long-term certainty these young people need and deserve. It is still the case that as of March 5 the number of DACA recipients that will fall out of status every day will grow exponentially – the process of renewal can take months and DACA recipients will lose their ability to work legally and will be subject to deportation during this time.
In addition, many Dreamers who are eligible for DACA cannot apply, given that the injunction does not allow for new individuals who are eligible for the program to enroll.
President Trump, the ball is in your court. You broke it, you fix it. We Democrats have repeatedly offered compromise proposals that both sides should be proud of, but you have stood firmly in the way of progress.
Until you change course, the fate of DACA recipients is in your hands. The American people will know exactly who to blame if you prevent Congress from getting this done.
For the Dreamers’ sake, we hope it won’t come to that.