Upon the announcement that the White House would rescind the executive order that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the Trump administration shifted attention to Congress, which was handed the responsibility of finding a legislative solution to protect hundreds of thousands of young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Without a legislative solution, those estimated 800,000 so-called Dreamers, who had used DACA to obtain authorization for employment and education, could face deportation.
The President and many Republicans expressed hopes that a replacement bill would offer similar opportunity to immigrants without legal status who were brought to the U.S. as children. However, talking points distributed by the White House to Republican members of Congress shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday, revealed the true intent of the move, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said Thursday. The memo was soon shared Capitol Hill with Democratic members of Congress and with the press.
Doggett pointed to the following statement as a glimpse into what he said are the true priorities of the White House:
“The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States – including proactively seeking travel documentation – or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible,” according to the talking points.
To Doggett, the statement indicates an assumption that Congress will, as it has in the past, fail to agree on meaningful immigration reform, including a replacement for DACA. Such inaction, Doggett said, is unacceptable.
“This Congress ought not to be engaging in business as usual unless we intend to move forward promptly to address the concerns of these Dreamers,” Doggett told the Rivard Report.
As for legislative solutions, Doggett sees the most hope for the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017. Until now, to keep the bill bipartisan, its sponsors – Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) kept the number of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors equal. Following Sessions’ announcement, the bill was opened up to all members of Congress, and Doggett added his name to the list of co-sponsors.
Doggett called other bills, such as the BRIDGE Act and the ENLIST Act, “insufficient” for current purposes. The BRIDGE Act, which is essentially a three-year extension of DACA without the option of renewal, was filed shortly after the 2016 election, when Democrats did not know how swiftly Trump would make good on his campaign promise to end DACA. With six months for Congress to pass a better bill, Doggett said, the BRIDGE Act is not a viable option for those committed to replacing DACA in a meaningful way.
The ENLIST Act offers legal residency to non-citizens who enlist in the military, but it has seen opposition on the far right wing of the Republican party, despite being sponsored by a GOP Rep. Jeff Denham (R-California). That opposition, Doggett said, demonstrates that the most conservative reaches of the party are even more anti-immigrant than they are pro-security.
To Doggett, the most comprehensive bill is the American Hope Act, filed by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) and co-sponsored by Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas). However, because it is backed exclusively by Democrats, it has little chance of passage. Doggett said he knows that compromise is in the future for those who would like to see a path to citizenship for DACA-eligible people. His concern is that those people have become a bargaining chip for Trump as he negotiates other items on his agenda, such as funding for a border wall.
“We can’t agree that the future of Dreamers depends on Democrats agreeing to fund a wall,” Doggett said.
The Rivard Report contacted Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and Castro for comment. Staffers for Hurd and Castro said the Congressmen had previously issued statements on the Trump administration’s move to end DACA. Smith had not responded at the time of publication, but also issued a statement following Sessions’ announcement on Tuesday.
To read the complete list of talking points distributed by White House, click here.