In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, the focus of lawmakers has largely shifted from finding a solution for the thousands of Dreamers who have been left under threat of deportation when Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), to the issue of gun violence in America.
Trump had set an artificial deadline of March 5th for Congress to come up with legislation to give permanent protection to DACA recipients. The deadline has come and gone, with some of the initial urgency being undermined by a court decision ruling against Trump’s action rescinding DACA and ordering the acceptance of renewal applications, although no new applications will be processed.
Last week, I was in Washington D.C. with immigrant youth from all over the country who have been relentlessly organizing and lobbying lawmakers for their cause. While there, I was arrested in front of Congress along other activists. We were thrown in jail overnight on bogus charges of resisting arrest that were dropped the next day. Since last year, immigrant youth have been making their voices heard in the halls of Congress, sometimes facing arrest like last week, to drive the point to legislators that their situation is dire and action is needed to protect them from possible detention and deportation.
Unfortunately, Dreamers have been left in limbo yet again by Washington lawmakers who promised to push for a bill that would give permanent protection for immigrant youth but instead supported spending bills that did not include a solution. Inaction and political cowardice from members of both parties are factors in the stalling of negotiations, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the White House.
Trump steered negotiations to the breaking point by attempting to force lawmakers to swallow poison pills in the form of changes to immigration policy that would have brought us back to a pre-civil rights era immigration system. Restrictions on family reunification sponsorship, the end of lottery visas, billions of dollars for a useless border wall, and funding for interior immigration enforcement are some of the harsh demands that sabotaged negotiations.
Ultimately, the White House rejected three bipartisan compromises that were deemed harsh by immigrant rights organizations. But it was all or nothing for the Trump administration and they whipped votes to kill legislation by threatening to veto if it reached the President’s desk.
What’s next for the Dream Act is uncertain. It appears that there will be no legislation in the foreseeable future. While the courts have given Dreamers a respite by allowing DACA renewal applications to be accepted, this is temporary. DACA recipients who were previously mortgaging homes, buying cars, starting businesses and developing careers are now taking steps to become untraceable as Trump steps up immigration enforcement and arrests of undocumented immigrants. They fear being left exposed to possible deportation if Congress fails to act and they are left without status.
Immigration groups are now getting ready to organize civic engagement campaigns that include raising awareness of the real plight of Dreamers and other immigrants and encouraging allies to raise their voices to protect immigrant youth.