The Trump administration has continued to double down on a toxic and cruel anti-immigrant agenda, with policies that will break apart families, increase fear in immigrant communities, and leave the 800,000 immigrant youth who came to the U.S. as children at risk of being deported and torn from the only home they’ve known.
One important step is clear: passing the popular and bipartisan Dream Act that would offer immediate and lasting protections for Dreamers—immigrant youth who arrived in the United States as children and built their lives here and who are Americans in every sense except documentation. And while even more action is necessary to protect all immigrant communities, even this first action is facing massive roadblocks from Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress.
Recently, despite widely held support for the Dream Act, Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress failed to join with Democrats to establish a bipartisan legislative solution to address the chaos Donald Trump created when he ended the successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last September.
And each week seems to bring new Republican proposals that only fuel Trump’s anti-immigration agenda: from ending the right of family members to immigrate to pouring billions into Trump’s wasteful and nonsensical wall. We can’t let ourselves get lost in every legislative twist-and-turn—the solution is clear, moral, and popular: a clean Dream Act.
Now, the March 5 deadline that Trump set for Congress to fix DACA is just around the corner, and it’s clear the White House and the GOP are playing political games with people’s lives.
Our job now, as March 5 comes speeding toward us, is to ensure any piece of legislation that hurts immigrant communities is dead on arrival and to push Congress to vote on a clean Dream Act. That means pressuring Democrats and Republicans alike to say “no deal” to Trump’s destructive pseudo-deals; and be willing to walk away from the negotiating table if the GOP insists on its cruel agenda.
As that date rapidly approaches, let’s look at how we got here, why we’re at this outrageous stalemate, and where we—Dreamers and allies alike—need to insist the country goes from here.
Nearly all Americans agree that Dreamers should be able to stay here in the U.S., the only country they call home. But Republicans, propelled by Donald Trump, have put them at risk for deportation.
Each day that Congress delays, 122 Dreamers lose their DACA status—joining the 17,000 who are being kept in legal limbo, unable to work, go to school, or support their communities without fear of deportation. And even though Trump’s action to end DACA is being litigated in court, those who lose their status are not automatically renewed, meaning they still face massive hurdles in re-establishing their protections and in the uncertainty of a program in peril.
When Trump canceled Obama’s DACA program last September, he said it was Congress’s job to fix it and that he would support a bipartisan compromise Congress brought to him. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate negotiated for four months and, weeks ago, presented a bipartisan proposal to Trump. Trump rejected that deal, infamously saying it would still allow people to come to the United States from “shithole countries” and that he favored immigrants from countries like Norway—exposing his racism and cruelty to the world.
This left Democrats in Congress with very little room for negotiation with an administration actively attempting to shut down immigration to people of certain races and from certain areas of the world and intentionally dismissive of real solutions coming from Congress.
Essentially, Trump had shown his hand, and, while a government shutdown is never something that progressives embrace, in this particular case, it was the necessary step to get a bill through the House. By not going along quietly with a Republican spending measure that failed to address critical issues and thereby triggering a shutdown, Democrats were able to sound an alarm to the entire country that Dreamers must be protected and that this escalating crisis cannot continue.
But the GOP was ready to hit hard—and they did, releasing right-wing attack ads invoking alarmist images intended to stoke fear of immigrants. Their intention was to intimidate Democrats. And it worked. Within days, Democrats ended the government shutdown and voted for a second Continuing Resolution to patch funding for the federal government until February 8, when the issue will need to be faced again.
Every day that passes is another day of cruel uncertainty for Dreamers. And every day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are emboldened to harass, arrest, and detain more and more people—even in churches and schools.
Progressives across the country have shown the willingness and energy needed to step up and support Democratic leaders who stand strong against Trump’s racist agenda. Just look at Alabama, where a Democrat was elected, against all odds.
Still, we can’t fool ourselves into believing that Democrats in Congress have retained their leverage in the work to pass a clean Dream Act. It will take more than a three-day government shutdown to ensure these Dreamers are protected, and the fight is far from over.
In his State of the Union address, Trump made it plain that he’s intent on cutting immigration—nearly in half—and is enabling what used to be far-fringe positions of white nationalists to become the new GOP mainstream.
This is terrifying.
March 5 is the deadline that Trump created, and millions of people and countless communities across the country will be directly impacted by what happens next—even if there is a temporary reprieve by the courts. The fact remains that until the Dream Act is passed, immigrant youth will be living in uncertainty and fear.
There are several immigration bills in Congress—none of which come close to the popularity of the Dream Act, which is the only legislative solution that protects Dreamers without hurting the larger immigrant community.
The public supports the Dream Act. That’s why the GOP has pulled out their racist, alarmist ads to stoke fear. Our work is to ensure the right-wing’s attempts to divide us fail.
The moral action for Congress to take is to pass a clean Dream Act now. We must continue to work with and support our partners and allies, taking leadership from immigrant-led organizations such as United We Dream, to ensure we hold the moral power in this fight.
And if it takes an election to shift the ground, so be it.