NAICU Washington Update

New Pressure for a DACA Fix

June 05, 2018

Congress and the White House are feeling renewed pressure to find a solution on dealing with the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue early this summer.  A series of meetings and conversations between House and Senate leadership and the White House indicate that if congressional action isn’t completed over the summer, Congress will likely be unable to address DACA prior to the November elections.

While President Trump rescinded the Obama-era DACA program in September, two federal courts have kept it on life support until either Congress addresses a permanent solution or the Supreme Court hands down a ruling.  Even with the program technically still active, registration and renewals are low, and the Department of Homeland Security is not expediting the renewals.

A bipartisan group of senators are renewing conversations with the White House to prepare for either House action, or a move by the courts that would necessitate quick congressional action.  After four failed votes in February in the Senate on a DACA fix, however, many senators are wary of revisiting a similar effort.

Interest is heating up in the House to hold votes on one or more DACA bills this month.  With the discharge petition recently sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), which is yet unresolved, the House is quickly becoming divided on what bills they’re willing to consider.  Speaker Ryan prefers waiting until there is a bill that has the support of both chambers and is something President Trump is willing to sign.  Others in the House simply want a bill they can lend their support to that will pass the House, leaving the next steps up to the Senate and White House.

It’s unclear whether the House will take up a single bill or several.  There is current legislation by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) that is seen by some as too conservative, and more moderate legislation backed by centrist House Republicans, in addition to the bevy of bills rejected by the Senate.  The complication is getting enough votes on a package where a majority of House and Senate members can agree on some combination of the following:
  • The future of the DACA program.
  • The status of the larger Dreamer population, who may or may not be DACA registrants.
  • Whether legislation should include a special pathway to citizenship for these individuals outside of current law.
  • Whether legislation should include funding for a border wall, increased border security, and other enhancements.
  • Whether legislation should include language on family members of DACA registrants or Dreamers.
  • How criminal activity is defined and addressed among these populations.
A combination of these issues are at play in all of the various bills, none of which so far have been able to get enough votes to pass either chamber.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-MS) has said he will not bring another immigration bill to the Senate floor unless the House sends something over that the President has indicated he will sign.

And getting the right combination of provisions into a package the House, Senate and White House can agree on is a very long shot.  Alternatively, if the courts rule in a way that forces congressional action, like upholding the rescission of the DACA program, the House and Senate need to have an idea of which package has the best chance of passing quickly while also protecting affected individuals.

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