By: Connor McNairn, Columnist
While there are many contentious issues that saturate contemporary political dialogues, there are perhaps none more prevalent than those concerning immigration. Within the past month, the United States government has shut down twice, though both occasions were quite brief. During these shutdown periods, Republicans and Democrats clashed over funding discrepancies, namely those surrounding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. But on Friday, President Donald Trump signed into law a bill that, much to the dismay of Dreamers and those in pursuit of fiscal responsibility, added hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending and motivated no further discussions on comprehensive immigration reform.
Last Friday, in the early hours of the morning, both the House and Senate channeled collective anti-shutdown sentiments to pass bipartisan legislation by votes of 240-186 and 71-28, respectively. The bill’s passage marked a change in attitude for Democrats who, less than one month ago, forced a government shutdown over Dreamer protections. With the new spending bill, while billions of dollars are dedicated to military programs and disaster relief projects, mention of immigration reform has remained relatively absent from both chambers.
Over the past several months, both parties have grappled over America’s responsibilities pertaining to both the welcoming of immigrants and the protection of its own citizens. Trump, aided by conservatives in both chambers of Congress, has often used the select misdeeds of illegal immigrants as political fodder against immigrants in aggregate and has ultimately advanced policy positions that aim to significantly reduce immigration numbers.
In stark opposition to Trump, the Democratic Party has used government funding as a bargaining chip against Trump’s anti-immigration bluster.
In September 2017, Trump ended the DACA program installed by former President Obama. While Republicans preached of the program’s unconstitutionality, Trump’s DOJ moved to stop accepting DACA authorizations. And in keeping with his usual pattern of irresponsibility, the president failed to outline or motivate any plans for restructuring immigration policy, effectively abandoning the massive collection of Dreamers (roughly one million) who needed this program to secure financial and educational stability.
Following the dissolution of the program, Democrats have moved to secure the support of and grant protection to Dreamers and, more broadly, immigrants. In fact, in late January, Democrats refused to compromise on a spending bill until comprehensive immigration reform was brought to the floor for serious and substantive debate – a refusal that would prove short-lived. After collectively supporting a temporary bill three days after the first shutdown of the year, Democrats have once again acquiesced with the latest GOP spending bill, and as before, no guarantees for Dreamers have been made.
It should be noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has allowed for more liberal immigration debate on the Senate floor, and it is possible that bipartisan immigration legislation could be articulated in these debates, as they were in the former Graham-Durbin legislation. Even so, in forfeiting its undying support of Dreamers in the passage of the latest spending bill, the Democratic Party has proved itself incapable of supporting Dreamers unconditionally, even in the face of government shutdown.