By: Ryan Kirby, Columnist
It looks like we survived a whole year under the Trump administration and there was no shortage of news stories to discuss. In his first State of the Union address, President Donald Trump spoke heavily about immigration, and with the impending funding deadline on Feb. 8, it is important to discuss one of the main issues both parties face: The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This policy was originally an Executive Order by President Barack Obama to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the country if they had arrived as a minor. The policy has allowed 800,000 individuals (a.k.a. Dreamers) to stay in the U.S. without granting them legal status. In September 2017, Trump announced the DACA program would come to an end in March, leaving Dreamers under threat of deportation.
Since September, Congress has done nothing to help Dreamers, and have left many in fear of deportation. After exactly one year, Trump was able to break one record; that is, being the first president to experience a government shutdown on his own watch when his party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House. Republicans wanted to keep the government open, while Democrats wanted to keep the government funded, approve long-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and pass a clean Dreamer bill. Republicans used CHIP as a crude bargaining tool to get Democratic votes to keep the government open, despite Republicans having left CHIP unfunded since Oct. 1.
The government shutdown has received substantial coverage and analysis that has placed blame on both sides. Polling indicates that 56 percent of Americans blamed either Trump or Republicans in Congress, compared to 39 percent of Americans who blamed congressional Democrats. The government shutdown was essentially a showdown over where the two parties stand on immigration. On the face of it, the Democrats in Congress were dealt a bad hand and had to make the best of it. Being the minority party in Congress means your ability to pass legislation is limited to next to nothing, but they do have the power to delay legislation.
Democrats are facing a tough election year in some red states, so I understand their risk aversion mentality and wanting to simply end the shutdown as soon as possible. However, I disagree with their choice to give in. As time had progressed in the shutdown, polling indicated that more Americans supported shutting the government down in order to get DACA legislation than before the shutdown. If Democrats had continued to hold out, I believe that Republicans would have begun to cave and give greater concessions. This was our first real opportunity to force Republicans to pass policy that a vast majority of Americans supported. I believe that last aspect is incredibly important when discussing Dreamers. Polls show support for keeping Dreamers in the U.S. anywhere between 70 percent and 83 percent. Majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans all agree that Dreamers should stay in the United States and Congress should pass legislation to fix the issue. When was the last time Americans agreed on something at such a high number? All Democrats wanted was to pass bipartisan legislation that is supported by a vast majority of the American public.
Unfortunately, in the immigration showdown, Democrats blinked first after only three days. So, where do we stand and where do we go from here? As part of reopening the government Democrats were able to take CHIP as a bargaining tool away from the GOP and a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that we would discuss immigration reform. Where we go now is to look to providing true protections for Dreamers and urging our congressional representatives to stand up for our fellow Americans. As President of the College Democrats of Maryland, I am proud to stand with my fellow College Democrats and urge Senator Chris Van Hollen and Senator Ben Cardin to oppose any continuing resolution that doesn’t include protections for Dreamers. I urge everyone to stand with Dreamers, who are our fellow Americans, to urge their representatives as well to oppose any continuing resolution that does not include a protections for Dreamers.