CHN: Advocates Rally for Dream Act as DACA Deadline Slides

Advocates rallied in Washington, D.C. on March 4 and 5 to urge Congress to pass a clean Dream Act to provide a pathway to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for Dreamers, people who were brought to the U.S. as children. Their fate remains in limbo, as Congress has failed to enact legislation to protect them and cases challenging the end of the program make their way through the courts.
While the Senate voted on a number of pieces of immigration legislation on Feb. 15, none secured enough votes for passage. CHN supported one proposal, the McCain-Coons Amendment, which would have paired the Dream Act with border security provisions and a coordinated approach to address problems in Central America that lead individuals to flee violence and gang activity. This bill failed by a vote of 52-48 (60 votes were needed for passage). Only one Democratic voted against it, while only four Republicans voted for it. The Rounds-King Amendment, a bipartisan proposal offered by eight Republicans and eight Democrats, also failed (54-45; 60 votes required). This bill would have provided much of the protections of the Dream Act, provided $25 billion over 10 years for border security, and end or restrict certain family reunification immigration policies. Prior to the vote, President Trump said he would veto this proposal if it passed Congress. The so-called Grassley-Miller Amendment, which incorporated the “four pillars” called for by President Trump, would have harshly restricted current legal family reunification immigration policies and ended the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program; it received the fewest votes of all the alternatives, failing 39-60. An anti-sanctuary cities bill also failed.

Advocates had reason to celebrate a small victory on Feb. 26 when the Supreme Court declined to hear the Trump administration’s challenge to a lower court ruling temporarily blocking it from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In January, a California judge ruled that the Trump administration wrongly ended the DACA program, and it temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending the program if legal challenges remain unresolved. The Department of Justice appealed that ruling and asked the Supreme Court to jump ahead of the appeals court to take up the case; the Supreme Court declined. The case will now be reviewed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A similar ruling against the Trump administration by a judge in New York will move to another appeals court. If either of those courts rules against the Trump administration, the Department of Justice could still appeal to the Supreme Court. The 9th Circuit Court is expected to hand down a ruling this summer, meaning that the Supreme Court could potentially take up the case when it reconvenes in the fall.

As the cases move through the legal system, DACA recipients can continue to file to renew their protected status beyond the March 5 deadline that President Trump previously announced would signal the end of DACA unless Congress acted. However, no new DACA applications will be accepted.

The Supreme Court announcement also buys time for Congress to figure out its next moves. Senators are also reportedly considering a one- to three-year temporary extension of the DACA program, which may or may not be paired with money for the border wall. A DACA fix could also be attached to the omnibus spending package Congress needs to pass. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said he would take up an immigration bill only if it had the support of his GOP majority and President Trump. President Trump and many Republicans have also repeatedly said they want any immigration deal to include increased funding for border security, including a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as ending the family reunification policy allowing immigrants with legal status to petition to bring relatives to the U.S. Most Democrats and some Republicans have opposed the proposed restrictions on immigration inserted into legislation intended to protect the Dreamers.

For more information about the Dream Act, applying for DACA renewals, and upcoming events, visit the National Immigration Law Center, UnidosUS, and United We Dream.

Dream Act