Congressional Hispanic Caucus members marched over to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's office Thursday demanding their colleagues across the Capitol vote against the short-term spending bill because it doesn't include a fix for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
The caucus voted unanimously to walk over to Schumer's office. Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said Schumer should be whipping Senate Democrats to vote against the continuing resolution to fund the government until Jan. 19. Democrats have felt mounting pressure from immigration activists and progressive groups to pull out all the stops ahead of votes on the year-end spending measure. Only a handful of Senate Democrats have vowed to vote against any continuing resolution that doesn't include a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was created by former President Obama.
Leaving the hour-long meeting, Lujan Grisham said she and the 16 other caucus members in attendance told Schumer they're tired of waiting for a fix for young undocumented immigrants who are already facing detention and deportation. The deadline to provide some permanent path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers is March 5. President Trump ordered DACA phased out in September, giving Congress time to pursue a legislative fix.
"What we stressed to the senator is that we need more senators voting with us," said Lujan Grisham. Schumer committed to pushing more of his caucus, according to Lujan Grisham.
"We came over to galvanize support for our Dreamers and we got that," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez D-Ill., who attended the meeting. "There are more Democratic senators than there were before the meeting."
Pressed on whether Schumer promised to whip the entire caucus and block the short-term funding bill, Lujan Grisham said only that he vowed to "move and grow the number of senators" voting against the must-pass bill because it doesn't include Dreamers, or enough for "CHIP, veterans, [and] Puerto Rico."
Gutierrez added that Hispanic Caucus members are "always fearful" that DACA recipients will get stiffed.
"Lets be clear I've seen this movie before and it doesn't end well for immigrant communities. There's always a very clear bilingualism here of mañana," Gutierrez said.
Lujan Grisham and Gutierrez wouldn't entertain the idea that the a fix couldn't happen before the end of the year, refusing to comment on how they'd handle the fight over a deal on DACA and border security with Republicans and the administration in January.
"This was another step to make sure that we're building support to get it done now," Grisham said.
"We were clear, 'you cannot put [Dreamers], Leader Schumer, on a pedestal, take them to the Democratic convention and then not give them the same kind of legislative importance moving forward," Gutierrez said.
Republicans appear poised to pass the CR Thursday without Democratic help in the House. In the Senate, a handful of Democrats in red states are expected to help Republicans pass the resolution to keep the government funded.
Rep. Darren Soto D-Fla. said Democrats will "lay it all on the line" in January when Congress plans to take up a larger must-pass spending bill.