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ICYMI: “Frank Sharry On Protecting Dreamers, Where We Stand and What’s Needed Now”

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With action the Senate and perhaps the House expected in the coming weeks, in a new Medium post, America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry gives his take on how to move from the current muddle to a breakthrough that protects Dreamers:

The White House plan and the President’s marketing of it is making a breakthrough more difficult. Authored by Stephen Miller and promoted by the President in his State of the Union address, the plan has polarized the debate and made a legislative result less likely. While some are fixated on the President’s plan for Dreamers, and Republicans are under pressure to fall in line, the White House plan is a non-starter for immigrants, their allies and all Democrats. This isn’t based on reflexive partisanship, but rather on informed judgement. The White House plan protects some Dreamers, but it’s attached to a set of radical and racist measures: ramp up deportations of long-established and hardworking undocumented immigrants, including the parents and older siblings of Dreamers; slash legal immigration levels by some 50%, with the deepest cuts aimed at Black (-64%), Latino (-58%) and Asian Pacific Islander immigrants (41%); deny safety to Central Americans, including unaccompanied minors, who are fleeing escalating violence; and build a border wall at taxpayer expense (not Mexico’s) that is as ineffective, wasteful, and insulting as it is unpopular.

The White House has rejected three serious bipartisan proposals in the last five months and is now pushing a plan that has no bipartisan support. Trump has rejected bipartisan deals 3 times in the last 5 months. In mid-September Trump appeared to agree to a deal with Schumer and Pelosi for a Dream Act and border security deal (Trump said “the wall can come later”); in January, Tuesday Trump said he wanted a bipartisan deal that addressed his four areas of concern; but Thursday Trump rejected the Graham-Durbin bipartisan deal that did so, and added the racist rant heard round the world. On the Friday before the shutdown, Trump met with Schumer and agreed in principle to a Dream Act for funding for border security and a border wall. In each instance, Trump buckled to pressure from the likes of John Kelly, Stephen Miller, Senator Tom Cotton, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte. It seems they are not serious about a compromise in the middle. Rather, they seem to want all or nothing.

Trump created this crisis; now he’s making a resolution of it difficult; it’s up to Congress to enact a narrow bipartisan bill that can pass and that can work. The President’s insistence on ‘my way or the highway’ is not productive. If Republicans in Congress follow him blindly, they will enact nothing and be held responsible for it. The way forward is to do what many leaders, on both sides of the aisle, have recommended: pair the Dream Act with smart border security measures. The Dream Act is a bipartisan bill sponsored in the Senate by Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin; the border security measures in the Hurd-Aguilar bill, a proposal with substantial bipartisan support in the House, serve as a sound basis for legislative action. Narrow gets it done. All other issues – reform of our legal immigration system, interior enforcement, legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, and fashioning a workable flow of needed workers that protects workers and grows the economy – are best left to a second round of discussions that tackle a more comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s immigration policies.

We need a breakthrough, not a blame game. In Washington DC, the blame game comes naturally; bipartisan policy making not so much. But if we as a nation are going to do what 87% of Americans want and ensure that Dreamers stay in America, Congress needs to act and to act soon. If not, we run the risk that young Americans are sent to countries they barely know because our elected leaders failed to solve a crisis created by the President. Such a development would go down as one of the darkest chapters in American history. It’s time for members of Congress to come together around a narrow package that can pass and that can work.