By Mel Dikert
Tuesday, Feb. 13, the fate of Dreamers was put into the hands of the Senate as they began yet another debate over immigration. The term “Dreamers” refers to a group of hundreds of thousands of immigrants–Vox says about 700,000–who were illegally brought into this country as children, sometime before they were 16 years old. Currently, the age range of the Dreamers is about 15 to 36 years old. Due to the Obama-era program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, these immigrants were protected from being deported for years. However, Trump rescinded the DACA program in September 2017 and set it to expire on March 5 this year, giving lawmakers less than a month now to create a replacement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell specifically set aside last week for the purpose of debating a piece of legislation that would both protect the Dreamers and address other issues such as border security and Trump’s wall. Republican leadership revealed that this debate was planned to only get a week of floor time as a means “to pressure Democrats to produce their legislative proposals,” says CNN.
“I hope that even if Democrats don’t get a chance to pass a bill to help DACA and the Dreamers that they will create a new one and never stop the fight,” says Jessica Ruotolo (‘21). “Moving as a child, you don’t get to decide where or when you go. Your parents do. You don’t control the paperwork, your parents do. So to punish and threaten to deport them is cruel and should be stopped, even if it means trying to create a new bill from scratch.”
Early Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted out about the debate just as it had started, saying that it will be “our last chance” to “solve the DACA puzzle” and that after this “there will never be another opportunity!” Despite all of the hype for this debate prior to its start, it came to an end on Thursday that same week with no solution having been worked out by the Senators. There were four proposals that the Senate ultimately voted on, but none of them could reach the 60 votes needed for passage. The main bipartisan proposal, which, according to Politico, “would have given an estimated 1.8 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship while spending $25 billion on border security,” met Trump’s conditions but did not make the vote. Trump’s proposal allowed Dreamers a path to citizenship but with cuts to legal immigration and increased border security. Trump himself made it quite clear that the only proposal he would have accepted was his own, though his proposal failed by 39-60, the furthest than any other proposal from reaching the 60-vote margin.
“The lack of a new program to provide stability to the lives of Dreamers is soon going to become a nationwide issue,” says Emma MacAfee (‘21).
Two other proposals that had also been rejected was a measure to penalize the so-called Sanctuary Cities that have not been cooperating with federal immigration officials and a plan that included no funding for the border wall.