The Immigration Debate
The past month has been fueled by immigration debates that have gone nowhere, such as the closed door meeting in which the president has been quoted calling African countries and Haiti “shithole countries.”
From Jan. 20 to 22, the government was shutdown due to the inability to find a compromise on immigration. Democrats refused to vote for a short term spending bill with no immigration deal. However, the public disapproval forced them to reopen the government with just a promise from Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) to have a vote on an immigration bill.
Afterwards, Democrats hoped to have an immigration deal by Feb. 9, when the government needed to pass another spending bill, but despite House minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Ca) eight-hour long speech on the need to pass a bill to protect Dreamers, no bill was passed. The government passed a two-year spending bill after technical shutdown for a few hours in the early morning of Feb 9.
The last ditch effort Democrats have to pass an immigration bill, something they have continuously promised to their base, is quickly approaching with the March 5 deadline. By March 5 the government must pass a bill to protect Dreamers from deportation or allow for over 800,000 young immigrants to be deported to their native countries, countries many of them don't even know and haven’t visited since leaving them as children.
Although the public opinion is overwhelming in the support of the protection of Dreamers-- most reports putting it at approximately 80 percent-- a bill is not going to be easy to pass. The Trump administration gave an outline on parameters they would like to see in a bill in order for President Trump to sign it, though if it ever makes it to his desk is another matter entirely.
The president’s list of conditions include money for the wall-- which if granted will not be a complete physical barrier, contrary to popular opinion-- an end to the diversity visa lottery program and family-based legal migration, in exchange for a 10-12 year path to citizenship for approximately 1.8 million Dreamers.
This, Democrats and immigration groups says are too harsh of conditions. It also leaves in question the fate of the parents of Dreamers, many of which are still minors.
On the other hand, many on the right, especially the alt-right side of President Trump’s base, are afraid he is giving up to much.
“We’re always going to call true north, and this is an amnesty bill,” said Michael Needham, the chief executive of the Heritage Action which is a right-wing advocacy group, “Amnesty is the wrong way to go, and we’re not going to flinch off that.”
All of this puts us in this week of the 12 to the 16. This week, congresspeople are claiming, will be completely dedicated to finding an immigration resolution. Senator McConnell will allow for an open immigration debate on the floor on Monday night.
It is uncertain if this debate will produce any substantive comprise and, in the case it does, it is also uncertain if the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-Wi), would allow for a debate or a vote for such comprise in the House.
Democrats run the risk of losing support from disillusionment from immigrant and other minority groups if they are unable to bridge the gap with Republicans on an immigration bill. This would hurt them during midterm elections that Democrats are hoping will allow them to win majority in both Senate and the House.
This article will be updated post the Monday night debate.