It’s been 17 years since Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Dream Act, proposed legislation that would provide legal protections to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Since then, the Dream Act has had countless ups and downs. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried, and failed, to shepherd a bill through Congress that would give legal status to so-called dreamers.
The latest salvo in the Dream Act debate came last month, when Democrats forced a three-day government shutdown to pressure Republicans on a long-term solution for dreamers. That power play eventually brought a few days of debate in the Senate, but by the end of this week, none of several dreamer-related bills had gained enough traction to get past the chamber.
“In a sharp rebuke, the Republican-led Senate blocked an immigration plan backed by President Trump, with the bill mustering just 39 votes. It highlighted the divisions even within GOP ranks, with some wary that granting legal status to undocumented immigrants would amount to amnesty,” The Washington Post wrote this week.
The article called the recent atmosphere in the Senate “corrosive” and said some lawmakers were blaming President Trump for “torpedoing bipartisan efforts.” The article said that “how the Trump administration and Congress will resolve the fate of dreamers ... remained unclear."
On this episode of “Can He Do That,” we ask the question: Can President Donald Trump force Congress to settle on a long-term bill for dreamers? And why has it been so hard for Congress to strike a deal on something that many Republicans and Democrats say they want?
We talk to The Post's immigration reporter Maria Sacchetti, who tells the story of the genesis of the Dream Act in the early 2000s. We hear from Jen Olson, who helped Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) try to pass a bill to help dreamers in 2007.
And Post congressional reporter Ed O’Keefe offers insight on why — despite the congressional gridlock — Trump may yet stand in a strong position to come up with long-term legislation that has eluded dreamers for nearly two decades.
“Ultimately, I don't think he wants to be the president held responsible for deporting hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who are clearly contributing to society,” O’Keefe said. “There's an urgent political need for Republicans to address this.”
Listen to the full episode below.
Each week, “Can He Do That?” examines the powers and limitations of the American presidency, focusing on one area where President Trump is seemingly breaking precedent. We answer the critical questions about what today’s news means for the future of the highest office in the nation.