I wouldn’t expect this one to zoom through Congress in the lame duck session, but the first tentative shot across the bow on amnesty has been fired. Raise your hands if you had “and the Republicans are behind it” on your bingo card. If so, collect your prize at the cashier’s window because some of the original sponsors of a new bill to extend the amnesty situation for so called “dreamers” are the usual suspects on the GOP side of Congress. (Politico)
A bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation Friday that would extend key legal protections and work permits to a select group of young undocumented immigrants brought here as children — a status that’s threatened by Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to repeal President Barack Obama’s executive actions to enact those benefits.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are promoting the so-called Bridge Act, which would allow at least 740,000 young immigrants who have gotten deportation reprieves and work permits under Obama to keep those benefits for three more years if they are revoked. Two other senators are original co-sponsors of the bill: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Durbin and Graham are hoping to collect more.
They can gather sponsors for the time being, but every indication from Mitch McConnell thus far has seemed to demonstrate a willingness to wait and see what Trump plans to do about DACA after he’s sworn in. Even Graham is quoted as saying that the executive action was unconstitutional and should be handled by Congress. I’ll even agree with him on that specific aspect, at least to a point. If you’re going to do something like this (and that’s a big if) then it should become part of the rule of law, not some sweeping order from the Oval Office.
But with all of Trump’s sweeping rhetoric on the campaign trail about illegals, would he even consider it? You might hope he wouldn’t but he’s been giving some signs which point the other way. Remember that just this week the President Elect was asked about the “dreamers” and he said we were going to “work something out that will make people happy.” Granted, that could mean almost anything and The Donald tends to be rather inscrutable on the best of days, but it certainly left me wondering. There’s also the question as to whether or not he’s sending signals in response to congressional Democrats’ request for Obama to simply pardon all the dreamers before he leaves office. Even if he’s considering what would be an extremely complicated blanket pardon, some signals from the incoming administration about being willing to work with them might turn him away from that drastic course of action.
Even if Trump is considering something along these lines it’s hard to see him getting much support from conservatives on the Hill. The more you look at this bill, the less there is to like. It wouldn’t simply codify the existing presidential decree under law. Instead it adds new layers to that onion in a number of areas. For example, the bill imposes new levels of secrecy about data on the dreamers. Their home address would be shielded from law enforcement agencies (except in case of “national security” threats or felony investigations), ostensibly to avoid having their family members getting caught up in a raid. And the number of people it would apply to could wind up being far above and beyond the current figure of roughly three quarters of a million that’s being tossed around. As they pointed out at the Huffington Post, there would be a three year period where people who had never even applied for DACA protection could “come out of the shadows” and jump on the bandwagon.
The Dream Act would have granted Dreamers a path to legal status, as would the 2013 immigration reform bill that Durbin and Graham helped draft. The new bill would put DACA recipients into a new type of status, “provisional protected presence,” that would last for three years from enactment. It would not be constrained to only those who currently have DACA: eligible individuals who have not yet applied could be granted provisional protected presence as well.
If Donald Trump is smart (assuming he has any thoughts of being a two term president) he should realize that the time limits on this bill pose another problem. Rather than getting some definitive action going on shutting down illegal immigration and getting the illegals out of the country, this would stir the pot for three years and then be set to expire smack in the middle of the 2020 presidential campaign. It’s tough to imagine anything that would immediately become more completely politicized than this.
I don’t have a prediction on this one because Trump too often defies predictability. I do, however, have a preference I’d like to see. Trump should keep his cards close to the vest on this subject until Obama is out with the threat of a pardon being removed and then just announce that the bill is going nowhere and we’re starting work on the wall. Live up to your promises, Mr. President Elect. That’s one major reason you’re going to be in office and not back on your golf course working on retirement plans.