All four immigration proposals voted on by the Senate failed, and the future of DACA remains uncertain as Trump propels us towards a third government shutdown. Learn how our Senators voted on each plan and what new ones could be in the pipeline, attend a Portland vigil in support of DREAMers, and make sure our MoC stay focused on finding a DACA solution before the March 5 deadline.
Last week the Senate debated a number of immigration proposals, all broadly aimed at passing legislation to resolve the crisis Trump created after he ordered the DACA program to be terminated on March 5, leaving 690,000 young immigrants at risk of deportation. Four plans were brought to a vote, and all fell short of the required 60 vote threshold for passage:
- The McCain-Coons Plan: This bipartisan plan was the companion to the House’s Hurd-Aguilar bill, which addressed “phase one” of the two-phase approach Trump agreed to on Jan. 9, with phase one resolving DACA and increasing border security, and phase two tackling comprehensive immigration reform at a later date. The plan failed by a vote of 52 to 47. Angus King voted in favor it, and Susan Collins voted against.
- The Toomey Amendment: This plan did not actually address DACA or border security. The amendment would have penalized so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration policy, by withholding federal funding. It failed 54 to 45. Republicans and a few Democrats supported it, but most Democrats were opposed. Susan Collins voted in favor of it, and Angus King voted against.
- Common Sense Coalition Plan: Sponsored by Angus King and Mike Rounds (R-SD), many thought this plan had the best chance of succeeding until the White House threatened to veto it. It would have provided a pathway to citizenship for about 1.8 million DREAMers, prevented green card holders from sponsoring adult children to immigrate, provided $25 billion for border security, and instructed ICE not to focus on undocumented immigrants without criminal histories. King and Collins (along with 7 other Republicans) voted in favor of this bill which garnered only 54 of the necessary 60 votes to pass.
- The Grassley Bill: An amendment that mirrored Trump’s immigration plan, the Grassley plan would have provided a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million DREAMers, allotted $25 billion for border security upgrades including a wall, and significantly reduced legal immigration levels by eliminating the diversity lottery and limiting family immigration. The amendment failed with only 39 votes in favor and 60 against. Both Collins and King voted against the plan.
So what’s next? It’s unclear. Many Republican Senators are hoping the House will take up the baton, but with Speaker Paul Ryan saying that he will only put forward proposals that have Trump’s blessing, it’s unlikely that anything that passes that hurdle will also garner 60 votes in the Senate. With both the March 5 DACA termination deadline and the March 23 budget deadline approaching, we could be headed for another government shutdown fight. Some Republican senators are floating narrow backup plans. One would enshrine DACA into law (but without offering a path to citizenship) in exchange for $25 billion for border security spread over five years. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has proposed extending DACA for three years and providing $7.6 billion in border wall funding spread over three years, until Congress can think of a more permanent solution. Meanwhile, the issue continues to play out in court. Most recently, a second federal court has blocked Trump’s order to rescind DACA, saying that while he has the authority to rescind Obama’s order, the termination was “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore flawed. The government is required to continue processing DACA renewals, but it does not protect those who never enrolled or were rejected. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to review the case. They will meet behind closed doors this week to discuss whether to accept the case.
While we can’t predict how the process will play out, we can assure you it will be complicated and confusing. We’ll be monitoring the issue closely, and will keep you updated here. In the meantime, here is action you can take right now:
- Attend Moral Movement Maine’s Vigil for Dreamers in Portland’s Congress Square Park on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 4:30pm.
- Speak out publicly on social media in support of DREAMers. SHARE THIS VIDEO that simply and effectively explains what DACA is, and SHARE THIS VIDEO to introduce others to some of the Dreamers at risk.
- Call or write all three of your Members of Congress (see talking points below).
- Most Importantly: Trump created this crisis when he signed the executive order ending the DACA program, and his incoherent and racist statements derailed earnest bipartisan efforts and propelled our government into two shutdowns, with a third looming. Lawmakers have already demonstrated their willingness to work together. The greatest barrier to a DACA resolution is Trump, and the responsibility for preventing a third government shutdown belongs to Trump.
- Importantly: Any serious effort to provide a solution for the DREAMers must be narrow and it must be bipartisan. Ideally, it should pair the DREAM Act with accountable border security. All other issues – good and bad – should be held over to a second round of discussions and debate.
- Since Trump killed the DACA program, nearly 19,000 immigrant young people have lost their protection and millions who would be protected from deportation with the DREAM Act have no protection at all.
- Maine’s economy depends on immigrants, especially for our seasonal agricultural and tourism industries, and we should increase, not decrease their numbers in our state.
- Any bill that does not include a path to citizenship for DREAMers and return those who have been deported during this crisis should be OPPOSED.
- Any bill that defines border security as a physical border wall or increased ICE deportation forces should be OPPOSED.
- Any bill that reduces legal immigration or family unification should be OPPOSED.