After the three-day shutdown that started over the weekend, Congress has approved funding for the federal government until February 8. The shutdown began after Senate Democrats refused to support a temporary funding measure because protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was not included in the measure.
DACA allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors and remained here to receive a renewable two-year deferral from deportation.
After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) pledged to allow votes on DACA in the near future, Senate Democrats voted to reopen the government. But the deal created few clear answers.
The agreement settled neither continued funding of government nor immigration. The first issue is that Leader McConnell promised votes on protecting DACA, not approval.
In addition, Democrats may insist on those votes prior to the February 8 expiration of funding for the government.
The likelihood is slim that Democrats will support a funding bill to keep the government running after February 8 with simply just voting on DACA, rather than having legislation approved.
A deadline of February 8 only leaves a week and a half to develop a bipartisan agreement on a very politically sensitive issue and the Senate isn’t known for its speed. Even if the Senate manages to vote on protecting DACA, there is currently no agreement in sight that would be approved.
President Trump offered a proposal late yesterday which would protect and provide possible citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants under DACA. It would also establish a $25 billion trust fund for a border defense system, including a wall along the Mexican border as well as technology and security at the Canadian border.
The proposal would also eliminate the visa lottery and curbs U.S. migration by extended families, a fundamental change to existing immigration policy. New citizens would be able to sponsor their immediate families – spouses and children – to legally enter the country, but other relatives would be excluded.
Initial reaction to the proposal has been mixed. Several congressional Democrats condemned the proposal while some Republicans were receptive and others expressed significant concern.
Even if the stars align and the Senate passes legislation to protect DACA before February 8, the promise made by Leader McConnell has no binding effect on the House and its actions.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) has flatly stated that “the House wasn’t part of that deal.”
The House is not inclined to consider, much less approve, any protection for DACA unless it is combined with significant immigration enforcement measures.
Like the president’s proposal, House Republicans may leverage DACA to obtain funding for a tightened border security, limiting chain migration that allows legal immigrants to sponsor family members for immigration to the US, and ending or restricting a diversity visa lottery system.
However, many Republicans see offers of possible citizenship as “amnesty” and anathema to any proposal.
Another provision that may be pushed by House Republicans in a DACA deal is the mandatory use of E-Verify by employers in the hiring process. As noted in the January 12, 2018 Week In Review, legislation was recently introduced in the House that would mandate E-Verify and includes other enforcement measures.
SAF has long opposed mandatory E-Verify without the creation of a program to provide an adequate and reliable guestworker program. Attendees of SAF’s Congressional Action Days have brought those concerns to their members of Congress in the past.
In short, approval of a temporary funding bill was not the end of the fight over a government shutdown, but just a pause in the fight.
Want to amplify the industry’s voice in D.C.? SAF members will once again have the opportunity to influence federal policymaking March 12-13 during this year’s Congressional Action Days.