Immigration activists were outraged with Democrats on Monday night after party leadership agreed to a short-term funding bill without protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
The bill to fund the government for three weeks and end the three-day-long federal government shutdown passed in Congress earlier Monday after Senate Republicans assured Democrats that those protections would be addressed soon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged that it was Republicans’ “intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security and related issues, as well as disaster relief.”
President Donald Trump signed the bill Monday night.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told fellow Democrats behind closed doors that their position in the minority prevented them from seeking a perfect deal, but expressed satisfaction at the progress made toward bringing significant immigration information to the Senate floor.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., quoted Schumer as saying, “It is what it is. We’re not in the majority. You’ve got to play the hand that was dealt you, and this is what we have. For those who voted to shut it down, you’ve gotten further than we’ve ever gotten in the past five years to have a major piece of legislation on immigration committed to come to the floor since we did the 2013 immigration bill.”
But that wasn’t good enough for many immigration and progressive groups fighting against Trump’s push to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program, which was granted by President Barack Obama under an executive action in 2012, allows certain undocumented immigrants who were children when they entered the United States to remain in the country without fear of deportation. The policy also gives these beneficiaries, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” the right to work legally.
Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union, lambasted Democrats’ decision to give up their demands and vote to reopen the government, saying “too many lives are on the line.”
“Enough is enough. We cannot rely on empty promises from those who have already proven to play politics with the lives of Dreamers,” Praeli said in a statement Monday night. “Today, Republicans — and too many Democrats — in Congress betrayed our American values and allowed bigotry and fear to prevail. But too many lives are on the line and too much is at stake to give up on this fight. Let it be known — we will be watching, and will make sure voters this November know if their representatives stood for Dreamers or for their deportations.”
Ezra Levin, co-founder the left-wing advocacy group Indivisible, called the deal “morally reprehensible and political malpractice,” adding that Democrats “need to grow a spine.”
“It’s Senator Schumer’s job to keep his caucus together and fight for progressive values. He failed in that today,” Levin said in a statement Monday night. “Republicans have consistently negotiated in bad faith, demonstrating that they have no interest in actually protecting Dreamers. And for months, Democratic leadership has reassured Dreamers that Democrats would use all their leverage to get the Dream Act done.
“They caved in early September, but promised to use their leverage in early December. They caved in early December, but promised to use their leverage by the end of the year. They caved at the end of the year, but they promised to use their leverage in January,” Levin continued. “And now they caved again, but promised to use their leverage in February. Democrats clearly want to keep Dreamers as a talking point, but they need to grow a spine and actually fight for the Dream Act.”
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said senators’ display of resolve to fight for Dreamers was “short-lived” and immigrant communities need action, not “bold gestures and empty promises.”
“Today, although the government is reopening, senators have done nothing to address the Trump-created crisis that leaves hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth at imminent threat of deportation,” Hincapie said in a statement Monday night. “Those who voted in favor of a continuing resolution based on the promise of a future immigration vote put their faith in the hands of those who have proven themselves unreliable in the past.
“Our communities need more than bold gestures and empty promises,” Hincapie added. “We need action right now. It’s not enough to say pro-Dreamer things and issue strong statements.”
Cristina Jimenez, executive director and co-founder of United We Dream, didn’t mince words, saying “immigrant youth will suffer” because of Monday’s deal.
“There is no way to spin this –- immigrant youth will suffer in detention camps and be deported because both parties delayed a breakthrough on the Dream Act today. United We Dream and our members are outraged because our members, including my brother Jonathan, are in greater danger today because of the cowardice of U.S. Senators,” Jimenez said in a statement Monday night. “Senators who voted today for the promise of a symbolic vote on the Dream Act are not resisting Trump –- they are enablers.”
“Senators can and must deliver on the Dream Act by February 8th,” Jimenez continued. “We don’t need a symbolic vote –- we need a breakthrough and a solution.”
Several immigration and progressive organizations had issued a joint statement Monday morning calling on Democrats to not “cave on their principles” and to deem McConnell’s resolution “unacceptable.”