The Hill reports: “A group of 25 House Democrats said Wednesday they won’t vote for any government spending bill, risking a shutdown, unless Congress passes the Dream Act — a measure that would provide permanent residency and a path to citizenship to that group of immigrants.” The Democrats argue: “Nobody except for a small extreme faction in the Republican Party thinks deporting DREAMers is a good idea. Every poll indicates that the American people favor legal status for these young immigrants by a 4-to-1 margin. The overwhelming support crosses party, class, geographic and racial lines.” They are looking for a “clean” fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which may not be in the cards, but their thinking is sound — especially in the aftermath of Tuesday’s elections, which were a wipeout for Republicans and a demonstration of American diversity and tolerance.
As The Post noted: “The Democrats’ new strength in the Virginia legislature — moving up from 34 seats to at least 49 — was built on a strikingly diverse range of candidates, including a woman who immigrated from Peru, a female refugee from Vietnam, an openly gay woman and a transgender woman. Many of the ousted Republicans were white men who had held office for years.” That wasn’t just a Virginia phenomenon. (“A black transgender activist, Andrea Jenkins, was elected to the Minneapolis City Council,” the New York Times reports. “A Hispanic woman won the mayor’s race in Topeka, Kan. A Sikh man was elected mayor in Hoboken, N.J. Latina, Vietnamese and transgender female candidates won state legislative races. Black candidates were elected lieutenant governor in New Jersey and Virginia. A Liberian refugee in Helena, Mont., was elected mayor.”)
It seems that Americans have had enough of race-baiting, xenophobia and plain old meanness. Certainly Republicans in swing districts, or districts that could come into play in a wave election, know that. If they refuse to include the DACA fix in December and fail again before President Trump’s March deadline, imagine the headlines, the ads and the rallies.
Republicans would face a backlash from not only advocates for minorities but also figures such as former CIA director and defense secretary Robert M. Gates, who wrote on Wednesday:
The United States faces extraordinary security challenges that are placing growing pressure on our armed forces. Those forces are stronger when they embody the nation’s diversity, drawing from a large pool of willing young people able to adapt to changing threats. That is why we need legislation that will provide a pathway to citizenship for those immigrants who, among other attributes, are serving or have served in the military, whether they are in America legally or were brought here illegally as children. That kind of policy will help the military recruit new service members and improve readiness. . . .
More than 800 so-called Dreamers who received temporary authorization to stay and work in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, recently revoked by President Trump, are now serving in the armed forces. They are able to serve because of a program I authorized in 2008 aimed at recruiting immigrants with medical, foreign language or other specialized skills. The program was extended when we found that these recruits had lower attrition rates than other recruits and, in particular, contributed invaluable language skills to Special Operations units. More than 350 additional DACA recipients have signed contracts with the Army and are awaiting basic training. If Congress fails to act, these recruits’ permits will expire. They will not be eligible to serve and will instead be at risk of deportation.
Republicans will get painted not only by Democrats but also by fellow Republicans as heartless racists who also are weak on national security. That should terrify even Republicans who won comfortably in 2016.
In short, Democrats have remarkable leverage now to demand DACA get done this year. They should pull their GOP colleagues aside and remind them how Trump and Ed Gillespie’s anti-immigrant rhetoric played in Virginia. By bucking Trump on this and demanding an immediate resolution, Republicans could not only demonstrate some independence but also take a nightmarish issue off the table. Sure, Ryan and Trump want to put off a vote on the “dreamers,” but why should endangered Republicans stick with them, risk never getting a vote and then be swept away by a further energized Democratic coalition in November 2018? Republicans should wise up and start participating in their own political preservation.