With a contingent of House Republicans pushing for a new bill that would target both legal and undocumented immigrants, concerns are mounting about how much Democrats will compromise to pass legislation that would reestablish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
"It's clear that Republicans are trying to use Dreamers as bargaining chips to get as much of their agenda added to it, and it's unfortunate."
—Frank Sharry, America's Voice
"It's clear that Republicans are trying to use Dreamers as bargaining chips to get as much of their agenda added to it, and it's unfortunate," Frank Sharry, executive director of the advocacy group America's Voice, told The Hill. "If there is an expansion of the Republican agenda, there will have to be an expansion of the Democratic agenda."
However, rather than challenging the Republican immigration agenda, Democratic leaders are reportedly "inching toward a bipartisan deal that broadly mirrors the parameters laid out during a meeting this week" at the White House. "Many Democrats, particularly in the House, are horrified that their leaders would even agree to discuss issues beyond legal status for Dreamers and limited measures to curb illegal immigration," Politico notes, "but moderates and vulnerable members in competitive districts are hungry for a deal and willing to openly entertain the controversial changes."
Tensions between immigrant rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers have risen since the Democrats reneged on their promise to pass a DACA fix before the New Year, and advocates are increasing pressure on members of Congress to resist attempts to use Dreamers as "bargaining chips" while the Trump administration's March deadline for DACA draws near.
Although a federal judge ruled earlier this week that the government must start accepting DACA applications again, federal lawmakers are still working on a permanent solution—which is complicated by arguments over enforcement measures that Trump and Republican members of Congress have fighting for, including funding a border wall and other strategies to deter people from entering the country illegally; ending the diversity visa lottery program; and amending rules about family-based migration, or so-called chain migration.
On Wednesday, four House Republicans introduced the "Securing America's Future Act," or H.R. 4760 (pdf), which would offer three-year renewable work permits to DACA recipients without any path to citizenship, but would also require employers to use the Internet-based E-Verify system to confirm all workers are documented; enable the government to deny federal grants to sanctuary cities; allow agents to detain minors who are arrested at the border with their parents; and increase criminal sentences for people who illegally re-enter the country after being deported.
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The House bill was immediately denounced by immigration rights advocates, including Lorella Praeli, the ACLU's director for immigration policy and campaigns, who warned, "The policies in the new legislation are a collection of hardline provisions designed to sabotage, rather than advance, the possibility of a bipartisan breakthrough."
"President Trump and responsible lawmakers interested in resolving the urgent crisis facing Dreamers should ignore this obvious attempt to derail policy negotiations through ideologically-driven poison pills," Praeli added, "and get back to work on delivering a solution for Dreamers and the country."
"We do not want to be negotiating with the lives of people. We believe in order to protect individuals we don't have to harm others."
—Adrian Reyna, United We Dream
Adrian Reyna, DREAM Act campaign director of United We Dream, told The Hill that measures to provide legal status to Dreamers shouldn't hurt other immigrant groups.
"All of our membership have spoken. We do not want to be negotiating with the lives of people. We believe in order to protect individuals we don't have to harm others," Reyna said. He added that his group would not support a DACA fix "that jeopardizes the security of our parents," explaining, "I cannot go into the house and say 'we were able to protect me and my two sisters, but now you'll have to live with more fear because there are more deportation agents out there."
While congressional lawmakers remain split over DACA, the Trump administration continues to target undocumented immigrants in other ways. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out raids at nearly 100 7-Eleven stores across the nation on Wednesday—which, as Common Dreams reported, critics called "yet another example of the escalating attacks from the Trump administration and its rogue ICE agents on immigrant communities."