By Bill Albee and Van Newstrom
How can the Democrats save DACA when the Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House? There is a way and it can happen next week. On Friday the 19th, Congress must pass a budget extension or the Government will shut down. The Republicans know they need 60 votes to pass an extension and keep the Government running. Paul Ryan said on Friday, January 12 that another short term extension is planned to give the Ways and Means Committee to draft a more long term measure. At least 9 Democratic votes are needed to pass even a short term measure to kick the can again for a few more weeks. This gives the Democrats leverage to draw a line in the sand on DACA, knowing that Republicans will be blamed if the Government shuts down. So what is the minimum demand on DACA that the Democrats should demand?
The Ninth District of the Court of Appeals ruled last week that Homeland Security must continue to accept renewal applications from current DACA recipients. The Trump Administration can push this up to the Supreme Court, where the Ninth Circuit ruling may be reversed. The current situation presents a great opportunity for the Democrats. In my opinion, the Democrats should insist that the budget extension next week include a provision requiring Homeland Security to accept renewal applications, at least for the period of time of the budget extension. If the Republicans accept this provision in the budget extension and the President signs it, the marker will be laid down. If a permanent DACA law is not passed before the budget extension expires, the Democrats can insist on extending the DACA measure in all future budget extension bills until a permanent DACA law is enacted, and the Republicans will have to accept that provision to prevent a Government shutdown.
Of course, I hope the Democrats push for much more than just a temporary DACA provision in the budget extension, but a temporary DACA provision is enough to protect Dreamers until the next showdown and make the court case moot. I would like to see the Democrats try to include in the temporary legislation a provision for unregistered Dreamers to register, but Republicans are not likely to agree to that without the border security and other immigration program changes demanded by the President. Should the Democrats fail to get a temporary DACA provision into the budget extension the court order will enable Dreamers to renew their registrations while the litigation proceeds, perhaps into the next administration in 2021 as explained in a Huffington Post article titled “How DACA Could Outlast Trump.”