Demonstrators rally last month in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) outside the Capitol in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)
Opinion writer

The Post reports:

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly said Tuesday that President Trump is not expected to extend the March 5 deadline when work permits will begin to expire for young immigrants known as “dreamers.”

“I doubt very much” Trump would extend the program, he said.

Kelly told reporters at the Capitol that he was “not so sure this president has the authority to extend it” because the original program protecting the immigrants was not based on law.

Kelly’s comments come as senators are trying to come up with a legislative solution for the dreamers and other aspects of the immigration system. Kelly also said he would recommend against Trump accepting a short-term legislative patch.

We’ll see about that. As an aside, the logic is faulty there. If the president lacked legal authority to keep the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in place until March 5, why does he lack authority to extend it further?

Trump’s anti-immigrant adviser Stephen Miller seems to be doing everything in his power to stop a deal that would spare the dreamers from deportation. The Republican hard-liners are trying to gum up what would otherwise be a bipartisan effort with large majorities. Revealing their true stripes, these anti-immigrant Republicans are anxious to slash legal immigration, an obvious nonstarter (even for many Republicans). While a group of 30 or so senators tries to cobble together a deal, there is no agreement yet. And even if the Senate were to pass something, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), for all his crocodile tears for dreamers, does not appear to be willing to defy his conference and put on the floor a DACA fix that a majority of House Republicans opposes.

In other words, if Trump won’t extend the deadline and Republicans won’t pass a fix, the 2018 midterm election year will be pockmarked with harrowing scenes that make recent incidents (e.g. a chemistry teacher arrested on the way to school) seem humane. Trump’s amped-up Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be dragging illegal immigrants from homes, workplaces, schools and presumably the military as well. Again and again we’ll witness families agonizing over forced separation. The Republicans’ immigration “policy” will be revealed for what it is — cruel, disruptive and downright inhumane. On a political note, Republicans can likely kiss goodbye competitive seats in Florida, Texas and California, where many of these scenes will play out. (Someone might mention to Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, that if there is a giant Hispanic backlash against the GOP, his Senate seat may become an unexpected casualty.)

I do not recommend DACA supporters fold their tent and let the Republicans suffer the consequences. It is certainly the dreamers themselves who will pay the greatest price. Moreover, letting DACA expire and deportations commence would go against the wishes of a super-majority (80 percent to 90 percent in some polls) of Americans who do not want to see these young, productive Americans kicked out. No, Democrats and pro-DACA Republicans should fight all the way until March 5. If, however, Republicans continue to refuse a vote on a relatively clean DACA bill (with some border security thrown in), they should make crystal clear who is responsible — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Ryan, and the GOP House and Senate majorities. They will need to justify their actions in November.