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Oct 18, 2018
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U.S. Supreme Court Building (Dreamstime/TNS)

A quick political guide to what’s next for the ‘Dreamers’

By Sarah D. Wire
Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – Congress and the White House haven’t been able to agree on a plan to give legal status to millions of people brought to the country illegally as children, and the clock is ticking. Under DACA, more than 700,000 people had temporary deportation relief and permission to legally work in the country.

When President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September, he gave Congress until March 5 to find a solution for the so-called Dreamers before the program completely shutters. Here is what we know about what’s to come.

Q: What happens March 5?

A: Not much. Federal judges in New York and California ordered the Justice Department to resume accepting DACA renewal applications while challenges to the program’s end are appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a Justice Department request to expedite an appeal, and the issue probably won’t be back at the Supreme Court until fall at the earliest.

Q: So where do things stand in Congress?

A: Last month, the Senate brought up and failed to advance four proposals that would have given the Dreamers some kind of legal status in exchange for border security funding or changes to the overall immigration system.

That proposal came within six votes of the 60 needed to move forward, failing in part because the president said on Twitter he would veto it. There is little doubt it could have passed with his support.

Q: Will the House try to pass its own bill?

A: The House waited for the Senate to make the first move, but Speaker Paul D. Ryan suggested the Republicans who control the chamber would move on their own.

“We clearly need to address this issue in March; I’ll just leave it at that,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters last week.

Q: What are California’s lawmakers doing?

A: An estimated 222,000 DACA recipients live in the state.

Pete Aguilar, D-Calif, is not the only Californian working behind the scenes to craft legislation. Central Valley Republican Reps. David Valadao and Jeff Denham are part of a bipartisan group seeking to come up with a plan both parties will accept. Their districts are heavily Latino.

Denham called on Ryan to promise to allow a vote on “all serious and substantive proposals, particularly those offered on a bipartisan basis.”

Q: Is a short-term fix possible?

A: It’s unclear.

The president’s rhetoric about a legislative fix, especially over the last few weeks, signals he is not open to a temporary solution.

Q: Where does debate go from here?

A: Congress tends to accelerate its work when facing a deadline, and delicate topics often get thrown into must-pass bills in an attempt to force a vote. That’s one reason the government has shut down twice this year.

The next must-pass spending bill has to be approved by March 24 in order to avoid a government shutdown, so that’s what’s being viewed as the new deadline to get something done for Dreamers.

It’s also one of the last major pieces of legislation Congress expects to pass this year before lawmakers’ attention shifts to the midterm election.

Editor’s Note: This Q/A was edited for length.

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