DACA Discussions Heat Up the New Year

With legislators back in Washington after the winter break, lawmakers move into 2018 with an agenda to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the limbo status currently imposed on beneficiaries. In their first week back in session, representative leadership plan meetings with White House officials to discuss DACA and overall immigration reform, among a host of other legislative issues.

President Donald Trump forced the DACA issue on the U.S. Congress last fall with his decision to end the program, which sunsets in March. Under DACA, which came into existence under an executive order issued by former President Barack Obama, individuals brought to the United States as undocumented children receive legal status and work authorizations dolled out in 2-year increments.

Before leaving Washington in December, Republican and Democratic leaders failed to find enough common ground to put forward a legislative fix. However, a paramount piece of the Trump agenda– tax reform– did pass as did a stopgap spending measure. Arguably, allowing the Republican victories took some heat off the GOP, which offers less leverage for Democrats in DACA negotiations.

Still, the idea of gaining a strategic advantage within the current spending and budget negotiation framework makes sense to some Democratic lawmakers as “GOP leadership will need support from Democrats to keep the government open and prevent automatic across-the-board budget cuts,” according to The Hill.

“Come January, we are focused on the caps, the omnibus and the opportunity they present,” the No. 2 Senate Democrat told the publication.

To this, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell casts doubt as “There isn’t that much of an emergency there. The president has given us until March.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake describes necessary components in a DACA fix as one that “beefs up border security, stops chain migration for DREAMers, and addresses the unfairness of the diversity lottery.”

“If POTUS wants to protect these kids, we want to help him keep that promise,” Flake adds.

For the Department of Homeland Security (DHS,) the direction taken by Congress dictates its direction. Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen describes the current options on the table as including citizenship or permanent legal status.

“It will be interesting to see where (Congress) can get comfortable with what they mean by what is a permanent fix, but the idea would be that you move away from a temporary status,” Secretary Nielsen said in comments around DACA.

President Trump weighed in on the topic through Twitter. “The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration, etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!”

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