Two important court decisions have temporarily secured DACA, but we still need a permanent solution. Learn how our Senators voted on recently failed plans, and what new ones could be in the pipeline, and make sure our reps stay focused on permanently protecting DREAMers.
Two important court decisions have averted the DACA crisis. The Supreme Court ruled that it would not take up a lower court decision that blocks Trump’s decision to end the DACA program, which means that those who have previously had DACA protection or currently have it will be able to keep it while the issue makes its way through the lower courts. The issue would not come back before the Supreme Court until its next term, which begins in October. Under the court rulings, undocumented immigrants currently in the DACA program can file to renew their two-year terms in the program. No new applicants can apply for DACA during this period. On the same day, a federal judge in California ruled that the government can’t revoke DACA recipients’ work permits or other protections without giving them notice and a chance to defend themselves. The judge said the Department of Homeland Security must restore protections to the group of DACA recipients who had them revoked “without notice, a reasoned explanation, or any opportunity to respond.” According to DHS, officials had revoked or terminated 2,139 individuals’ DACA protections over the lifetime of the program as of August 2017.
Before the February recess 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. 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. 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.
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:
- 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.