Outside groups are ramping up pressure on congressional leaders to find a legislative fix for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children before they leave for the year. But few details have emerged about a potential deal and there is only one week left.
Working groups on both sides of the Capitol are trying to reach an agreement that would provide some permanent legal status for "Dreamers" and money for border security. Democratic leaders have softened their stance toward a December deadline for finding a fix, but others in both chambers have vowed to vote against any continuing resolution to fund the government without a solution.
“If Congress goes home for Christmas but leaves Dreamers out in the cold, the grassroots uprising will be scorching enough to boil snow,” said Ben Wilker, Washington director of MoveOn.org. “Every Republican and every Democrat should be on notice: Your Dreamer deadline is in December, and there will be no extensions.”
In a Thursday sit-down with a group of Latino reporters, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said he thinks there’s a good chance the fight over granting recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program some permanent status will spill into January.
“I don’t think that we’re as close as some people think we are,” Menendez said, pointing out that he isn’t in the group of senators currently involved in negotations.
But Menendez was a part of a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and others privy to talks recently and getting a deal on DACA is very much a priority for Democrats. To strike that deal, Menendez said Democrats see the most leverage when they negotiate a larger spending bill, in which Republicans will want to increase spending defense spending caps.
In exchange for providing a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients — some of whom are already being detained and facing deportation — Republicans want more money for border security. Menendez said proposals being floated around include increased interior enforcement and an end to immigration laws that allow a U.S. citizen to claim a family member, helping them immigrate to America.
“As it is I will have to swallow a deal with some of the border things that are being talked about, some of the monies that are being talked about, but I will do it if it means permanency for Dreamers,” Menendez said. “But if you’re asking me to end the possibility of claiming a family member, which is a permanent change in immigration [sic] forever — wow that’s probably beyond my reach and that shouldn’t be the choice.”
Asked about pressure from outside groups earlier in the week, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, who helped lead negotiations, told reporters “there’s much being discussed outside of your reporting.” Durbin said it’s unclear if a deal will be attached to a short-term resolution to keep the government open though the holidays, or passed separately.
On the House side, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., vented frustration over the pace of talks, saying leaders of a bipartisan working group should have presented a deal by now. Curbelo said that if language of some agreement wasn’t released this week then it would make passing a fix for DACA recipients extremely difficult before the end of the year. The language currently being worked on by the Problem Solvers Caucus has not been released.
“Congress must deliver the Dream Act in the next few days and Democrats must use all of their leverage to get this done,” he said on Thursday.
Though there are scant details on any deal from either side of the Capitol, a House Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner on Thursday that “there is a path to getting this done before we leave.”