Lawmakers returned to Washington, D.C., on Monday after a week off. However, before either chamber could even begin official business, the omnibus rumor mill began to swirl with some Republican Senators predicting that a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty would be included in the long-awaited government funding legislation.
Last September, the Trump administration announced it would wind down the unlawful DACA program, giving Congress until March 5, 2018 to pass a permanent fix. Although Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) previously claimed that Congress “works better with deadlines,” in today’s Congress, that statement is not exactly accurate. In fact, the 115th Congress has demonstrated that even deadlines fixed for crucial legislation— such as actually funding the government— hardly create a sense of urgency. The March 5 deadline appears especially trivial since two activist judges ruled that the current DACA program must remain in place while litigation works its way through the system; and the Supreme Court has already rejected requests to intervene.
Nonetheless, Congress does appear to be going through the motions. Several weeks ago, the Senate voted on several mass amnesty bills sold under the guise of a DACA “fix.” However, every single vote failed, including a White House-backed plan that would have granted a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal aliens in exchange for border wall funding and modest legal immigration reforms. Now, due to the Senate’s failure, all eyes are on the House with Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) Securing America’s Future Act being the main attraction. But even if the Goodlatte bill is able to drum up enough support in the House, could it survive the Senate? It doesn’t seem likely.
Which bring us back to the ominous omnibus. When asked late last year if DACA could be packaged with spending legislation, Speaker Ryan stated the House would be handling the issues separately. Still, that statement has not stopped Democrats from utilizing these spending packages to pursue their DACA demands. Earlier this month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke for over 8 hours to delay a vote on a short term funding package that lacked DACA language; and so far in 2018, the government has already shut down over the issue.
Regardless of the demands, regardless of the shutdowns, using a “must pass” spending package as a vehicle for changes to our immigration policies is unacceptable. Such crucial reforms deserve to be debated openly in a public forum before the American people— not in closed-door, smoke-filled rooms as a means to keep the lights on. Please stay tuned to FAIR for updates as the upcoming March 23 spending deadline closes in.