Unhappy immigration activists and their Democratic allies on Capitol Hill cried foul Thursday, after lawmakers once again passed a short term spending bill without legislative protections for the recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
As first the House and then the Senate debated a stopgap measure to avert a government shutdown at midnight Friday, pro-DACA demonstrators occupied the Capitol rotunda, demanding that Democrats force a vote on a DACA amnesty bill known as the Dream Act. The measure would give legal status to 790,000 DACA recipients and potentially millions more illegal immigrants.
While the pro-DACA demonstrators berated Democrats who were set to support the continuing resolution, a group of lawmakers from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) walked off the House floor and marched to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office. There, they had a heated exchange with the senior Democrat with the aim of convincing him to persuade senators to vote against the spending bill.
The public displays of support for DACA amnesty were not enough to sway the entire Democratic caucus. The spending deal, which funds the government through Jan. 19, cleared the Senate in a 66-32 vote, with many Democrats from Republican-leaning states providing key votes in favor.
Thursday’s vote — the second time in a month that Congress passed a spending bill with no DACA provisions — exposed a growing divide among Democrats over how and when push for codification of DACA, which expires in early March. While Democratic lawmakers and DACA advocates are generally united in calling for passage of the Dream Act, there has been significant discord within the party about how to achieve that result.
On one side are pro-DACA amnesty groups and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who are urging Democrats to use whatever leverage they have over future spending deals to force a “clean” Dream Act. Other Democrats, most notably Senate leadership, have conceded that Dream Act provisions are most likely to be taken up in a compromise bill with Republicans and the White House. GOP leaders have insisted that DACA protections be a part of a bill that also includes border security enhancements and immigration reforms.
Intra-party tensions over DACA escalated and spilled into the open Thursday, with activists referring to Democratic lawmakers who voted for the spending deal as the “Deportation Caucus.”
In a statement released after the House vote, CHC Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham blamed Republicans for leaving DACA recipients “in limbo.” But the New Mexico Democrat also promised to pressure “all” leaders in Congress on DACA, including those in her own party.
“We will continue to be relentless in our fight for Dreamers because we need this done now,” Lujan Grisham said. “We will leverage every single opportunity to keep all Congressional leaders committed to the goal of permanently protecting Dreamers by mid-January.”
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