Although Congress saw several immigration bills introduced this year, the legislative branch maintained the status quo for millions of people who identify as Dreamers. Because the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program terminates in March, spring 2018 acts as the current marker on the horizon for potential resolution around ongoing limbo– something that has become the norm for those who were brought to the United States as children.
With President Donald Trump’s swearing into office in January, observers braced for stark changes in the nation’s immigration laws. While the letter of immigration law remains the same as it did when Barack Obama left office on January 20, a majority of change under President Trump comes in terms of policy around the application of the laws. The policy implementation difference comes most notably where legal immigration is concerned.
In terms of DACA, President Trump campaigned on the idea of acting with compassion toward the estimated 11 million young people with culturally American identities but lacking national status. Rescinding the executive order in September this year, signed by President Obama in 2012, President Trump included a 6-month window to bring DACA to a conclusion and to allow Congress to apply a legislative solution to program beneficiaries.
Speculation on establishing laws around providing DACA beneficiaries permanent legal status in one form or another peppered immigration news stories in 2017. Political stories tie DACA Dreamers to the establishment of a budget, something largely in the hands of Republican lawmakers. Congress takes up the budgeting issue in January.
However, with the passage of President Trump’s tax reform proposal, Democrats arguably lost potential leverage in negotiating the best deal possible for Dreamers. This is because the paramount position of tax reform in the Republican agenda is no longer an issue as the GOP won the battle.
Along the same lines, the Congressional agenda establishes a budget in January. As the Republican-controlled body debates the use and allocations of the nation’s finances, defending safety net programs fall to Democratic representatives. Arguably, the give-and-take negotiations around the budget will reverberate to legislators’ approach to DACA.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a strong immigration advocate, voted for the tax bill with a commitment from White House officials and other Republican colleagues for a vote on immigration in January, according to a report, that provides a permanent variation on the DACA program. Commenting on his vote on the tax bill, Flake said he is “please that the Majority Leader has committed to bring the bipartisan DACA bill we are currently negotiating to the Senate floor in January.”
Another Republican senator, John Barrasso of Wyoming, according to The Washington Times, said that ending DACA in March leaves plenty of time to tackle DACA and overall immigration reform. Noting that these negotiations are currently in progress, Barrasso adds, “But for me, I’m going to focus on border security, enforcement and ending chain migration.”