This article titled “Dreamers deadline to pass unnoticed as immigration reform stalls in Congress” was written by Lauren Gambino in Washington, for theguardian.com on Sunday 4th March 2018 17.30 Asia/Kolkata
For months, Congress circled 5 March in bright red ink. It was the deadline – arbitrarily imposed by Donald Trump – for lawmakers to find a way to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented migrants, known as Dreamers, from deportation.
But on Monday in Washington that deadline will pass unceremoniously. Negotiations have all but ceased as the nation turns to face another crisis. Congress is under pressure to act on guns, the one issue as politically polarizing as immigration.
“We’re not optimistic and we’re not holding our breath for Congress to pass immigration legislation,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrants’ rights group.
Last year, Trump announced the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), a program that allows people brought to the country illegally as children to apply for renewable two-year work permits. Established by Barack Obama in 2012, Daca shields 690,000 people from deportation.
This week, though, a supreme court decision removed any urgency on Capitol Hill. The justices ruled that Daca must be reinstated while lower courts consider challenges to Trump’s action. The ruling could leave Dreamers in legal limbo for months.
Under the ruling, only those previously enrolled in the Daca program can renew their protection. Advocates and experts estimate that thousands and possibly more will lose protected status while they wait for applications to be processed. There are also hundreds of thousands of young migrants who would be eligible under Daca but never applied or who have only recently become old enough to qualify.
“We’re worried that people are going to forget about the Dreamers and that while no one is paying attention, the administration will start quietly deporting them,” said Faiz Shakir, national political director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Dreamers and their supporters are petitioning for more clarity on what happens to those who have lost or will lose their status. Specifically, they want the Department of Homeland Security to issue guidance for employers and universities.
Activists and organizers have tried to keep up the pressure, continuing to lead protests and rallies. On Sunday, groups including the ACLU will launch a campaign demanding action from Congress and reminding Trump he once told Dreamers “not to worry”.
The Republican leaders in Congress, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, only want to consider proposals that Trump would sign. Democrats agree that the president holds the key to crafting a deal.
Trump has publicly expressed empathy for Dreamers but his list of immigration demands paralyzed the debate. In exchange for protecting Dreamers, the White House wants funding for a border wall, increased border security and sweeping reductions to legal immigration.
As a result, the Senate last month rejected proposals including one strongly supported by the president. That plan, which addressed each of the White House’s demands, had 60 members against it. The Senate also fell short on a bipartisan plan that would have included a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and funding for the wall.
Lawmakers in both chambers said last week that talks on immigration had stalled.
“I’m the one that’s pushing Daca and the Democrats are nowhere to be found,” Trump said in his most recent tweet on the issue.
Jeff Flake, a Republican senator from Arizona, has introduced a modest proposal: a three-year renewal of Daca in exchange for three years of funding for Trump’s wall.
But that proposal has drawn opposition from all sides. Democrats are unwilling to give Trump a $7.6bn down payment on a wall they do not want, in exchange for a temporary fix.
“At this point, we’re not going to accept wholesale changes to immigration policy for temporary relief,” said Arizona congressman Ruben Gallego, a Democrat and member of Congressional Hispanic Caucus leadership. “The Republicans’ leverage is gone.”
For now, after the deaths of 17 students and staff at a high school in Florida, Congress remains embroiled in debate over gun legislation.
Despite public support for Dreamers, Congress is unlikely to take on another divisive issue unless it must, said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
“When the courts finally rule on the merits of the case, the program could be ended really quickly without any notice at all,” Brown said. “Only Congress can offer a permanent solution.”
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