But the dreamers have decided to give the Democrats a rude awakening.
When lawmakers reached a short-term, bipartisan deal last month to keep the government funded, United We Dream, the organization leading the campaign to legalize the dreamers, launched an all-out attack on Democrats for failing to insist that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals legislation be included in the spending bill.
United We Dream also fired off a tweet praising conservative Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) "for voting NO on a spending bill that did not include a Dream Act. We see your commitment and we need you to continue fighting with young immigrants!"
This is bonkers.
Democrats — in and out of the supposed "Deportation Caucus" — support legalizing the dreamers. And Lee? His opposition to the spending bill had nothing to do with dreamers. He had called DACA "an illegal abuse of executive power." Meanwhile, Trump, who created the artificial crisis by announcing he would end DACA, gets away with barely a scratch.
United We Dream deleted the pro-Lee tweet but continues to attack Democrats. There have been sit-ins and sometimes arrests at the offices of Democratic senators.
The opposition party has been unusually unified over the past year, the result of their common horror over Trump's ruinous reign. But just as things have begun to look hopeful for Democrats, the "professional left," as Robert Gibbs famously called it, has begun manufacturing wedge issues to cleave the Trump opposition: over single-payer health care, impeachment, abortion and, now, immigration.
I'm sympathetic to the dreamers' demand for immediate action. Greisa Martinez Rosas, director of advocacy for United We Dream, tells me that her group has "called out Trump as a white nationalist" and has identified the many Republicans who oppose DACA as "dream killers." The group's recent attacks on Democrats reflect desperation as time runs out for DACA. "We can't wait," Martinez Rosas said, noting that her DACA-covered sister, in college in Texas, could soon be deported. "That's the moral position we are in."
The problem for Democrats is that the party is a collection of one-issue entities, which too often use internecine disputes for fundraising and, collectively, thwart any attempt at a cohesive progressive strategy.
The dreamers' attacks on Democrats are particularly counterproductive because there is no ideological disagreement. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and other Democrats are playing a chess game: They know Republicans want an increase in defense spending, and they're seeking to use that as leverage to gain domestic spending increases, renewal of the Children's Health Insurance Program, disaster relief and DACA legislation.
United We Dream, by contrast, understandably wants the DACA legislation above all. It is demanding that Democrats instigate a government shutdown on Jan. 19 by refusing to support a short-term spending bill that doesn't legalize the dreamers. Those who favor this approach argue that Trump and Republicans would be blamed for the pain of a shutdown, and Republicans would then legalize the dreamers.
Maybe — or maybe the Democrats would be blamed, and their political and legislative hopes (and those of the dreamers) dashed for years.
Instead of training their fire on those who support them, dreamers and their supporters could use their prodigious energy on the 34 House Republicans who said they support legalization. These Republicans could force House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to include DACA in the spending bill. Meanwhile, dreamers and the Democrats will likely gain more leverage against Trump and the Republicans with the approach of March 5, the day the DACA program, per Trump's order, expires. Trump, who had made clear he has no appetite for deporting the dreamers, would then have to capitulate — and Democrats could get a better deal for the dreamers.
Patience has been paying off for the Democrats. In his marathon televised session with lawmakers at the White House on Tuesday, Trump softened his position on the border wall and suggested a DACA deal could be had while postponing thornier issues such as chain migration. He repeatedly said he would like to see "comprehensive immigration reform" — long opposed by immigration hard-liners as "amnesty."
Also Tuesday, Ryan softened his earlier insistence that DACA not be considered as part of a spending bill.
Dreamers will win this fight — if they don't mow down their friends first.
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