President Trump was hoping to mark his first anniversary in office at his Mar-a-Largo estate in Florida, but then the federal government shut down for 69 hours. The high-stakes game of chicken that began Jan. 20 ended when Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reluctantly came to an agreement that will keep the federal government paying its bills until Feb. 8.
Unable to pass a federal budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, Congress has repeatedly resorted to these “continuing resolutions.”
The latest stalemate ended when Senate Democrats woke up, smelled the coffee, and relented on their demand for immigration reform in return for assurances from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the Senate will consider immigration proposals in the coming weeks and take up the plight of Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals recipients, often referred to as “Dreamers.”
Poll after poll has shown that most Americans want the Dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally as children, protected. But a recent CNN poll also showed that when given a choice between keeping the federal government open and passing DACA legislation, most said they don’t want the government to shut down.
Americans understand that attracting hard-working legal immigrants has been an important reason for the nation’s prosperity. They also understand that promised entitlements like Social Security won’t be around in a few decades unless we have more workers paying into them.
President Obama introduced DACA in 2012 as a stopgap measure to avoid deportations. President Trump rescinded Obama’s executive order creating the program last September, but delayed implementation until March 2018 to give Congress the opportunity to develop a replacement. As a practical matter, Dreamers are not in immediate danger of being deported because any action would trigger legal challenges.
While the media was salivating over the prospect of an extended federal shutdown, this three-day version was uneventful. Unlike the 21-day instance in 1995-1996 and the 16-day shutdown in 2013, the fight was not over raising the federal debt ceiling or health care policy. Instead, it was about Senate Democrats trying to pressure their Republican counterparts to ensure that about 800,000 immigrants, mostly from Mexico, who came to the United States as children could remain.
Before you know it, Feb. 8 will be upon us. There is no end to the suspense.
All this political posturing and blame-gaming is about one part of a much larger immigration issue and the President’s insistence on building a wall on our southern border.
Moreover, both parties dance around an unspoken yet reasonable question: Once DACA recipients are addressed, how long before pressure mounts to accommodate the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, which was designed to defer deportation for about five million parents of children born in the United States and also of children brought to the country legally?
“Deferred action” is Washington speak which in plain English means ignoring the law.
The evidence with entitlements suggests that each extension of benefits establishes a new base for future expansion. As time passes, more groups of undocumented immigrants come forth claiming they are no less deserving and political pressure is brought on their behalf to again expand protection. The process repeats itself until a program’s original intention is virtually unrecognizable.
Immigration issues have defied compromise for decades. Americans have a wide range of opinions on the subject, many of which don’t add up to a coherent point of view. These conflicted emotions have blocked comprehensive immigration legislation and skirted the issue of enforcing existing laws.
Not to be overlooked is the political imperative to be reelected, which incentivizes politicians to follow Scarlett O’Hara’s approach from “Gone with the Wind”: “After all, tomorrow is another day.” Given that we elect politicians, the lack of a well-conceived immigration policy is the price the electorate must pay for their irresponsible behavior.
Originally Published: Feb 3, 2018