Last year, despite heavy lobbying and urgent calls for action by advocates, businesses, law enforcement and voices from conservatives and progressives, Congress was not able to arrive at a permanent legislative solution to allow the roughly 700,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, to remain in the U.S. after the ending of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Donald Trump stated in September that he hoped Congress would come up with a solution before the six-month termination date. That deadline is fast approaching.
But it’s not too late. Congress has given itself until January 19 to finally fund the government for the current fiscal year, and therefore, bought time for a deal to be crafted. Despite a bipartisan meeting hosted by the president with congressional leaders, there does not seem to be agreement yet on a deal. However, we believe a deal can still be struck—if all sides are willing to reach outside the boxes they currently find themselves in.
The lack of resolution on this issue is a tragedy on many levels—chiefly for the young people whose lives have been in upheaval for months and now risk losing the only home they’ve ever known, but also for our political institutions. Back in September, we said there was an easy deal to be had: permanent legalization for Dreamers in exchange for additional border security. But Republicans insisted on more enforcement and changes to permanent legal immigration in the deal, while Democrats and immigration advocates continued to push publicly for a clean “DREAM Act”—something that was really never in the cards. The result, predictably, has been a stalemate and no action.
As we understand the current state of play, the White House is insisting on funding for its border wall, and efforts to end “chain migration,” the pejorative term for legal, family sponsored immigration that has been part of our law since 1965. Democrats, for their part, seem to have moved toward accepting some border security funding and restrictions on the ability of legalized Dreamers to sponsor their parents for green cards, in exchange for green cards and a path to citizenship for most of the Dreamers. However, the calls for broader limitations on chain migration from the White House and some in Congress, as well as the continued rhetorical issue of the border wall, seem to have put the negotiations in a box.
Haley Barbour and Henry Cisneros are co-chairs of BPC’s Immigration Task Force.