Even as immigration activists take to Capitol Hill to demand a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Democrats say the prospects for passing an amnesty bill before the end of the year are increasingly dim.
To force the issue, DACA advocates are pressuring their Democratic allies to tie amnesty provisions to a must-pass spending bill due later this week.
But Republicans have dug in their heels, presenting a unified front against the idea of inserting DACA amnesty into a budget deal. House Speaker Paul Ryan managed to secure 221 Republican votes earlier this month for a continuing resolution without DACA provisions, passing the measure with 14 Democratic votes.
Now, as lawmakers attempt to hammer out another spending deal, Republicans again appear to have the votes to pass a bill without having to address the DACA issue. As the Friday deadline approaches, some Democrats concede that using the threat of a government shutdown to get a DACA amnesty is unlikely to sway Republicans.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat from Texas, says it would take a “miracle” for such a gambit to work.
“We’re trying to put as much leverage on Republicans as we can, but they are saying early next year,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “I was hoping we could do it by the end of the year and maybe a miracle will happen, but I don’t see it right now.”
“I hate to put it so cold, but do you shut down the government for 800,000 people at the expense of 320 million Americans? That’s really what you’re looking at,” Cuellar added.
When President Donald Trump terminated DACA in September, he gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a legislative replacement that would codify legal status for the program’s nearly 800,000 beneficiaries. Republican leadership has downplayed the urgency of crafting such a bill, saying the March deadline provides Congress plenty of time to take on DACA after priority bills on spending, tax reform and infrastructure.
Before the continuing resolution vote, a group of House Republicans from immigrant-heavy districts called on Congress to act “immediately” to pass a DACA replacement. The letter signed by 34 GOP House members stopped short of threatening a government shutdown, as their Democratic counterparts had done.
Polling shows that a majority of Americans support some kind of legal status for DACA recipients, but only a small minority thinks forcing a government shutdown to get amnesty is a good idea.
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