What Democrats Should Do to Get DACA through Congress (Opinion)
The government shutdown ended almost two weeks ago, and in our hyper-charged political environment, most of us have probably already moved on from it. What the government is going to do about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) remains in question, and the shutdown has caused Democrats to lose leverage and credibility in the battle. Despite Senator Chuck Schumer’s foolish shutdown, there is still a way to get DACA through Congress.
First, the Democrats should make it publicly clear that they want a vote on a DACA deal by March 5. Every day, they should introduce a giant countdown display on the Senate floor behind a copy of the bipartisan Graham-Durbin bill. This would draw a clear line in the sand, representing an obvious threat to Republicans and a promise to the country. It is critical for the Democrats to make it clear that the bill is ready and that the only thing standing in its way is Republican obstructionism. To prevent the Republicans from stalling during negotiations, Democrats should cease negotiating with Republicans altogether, simply hauling out the Graham-Durbin bill every time bipartisanship is mentioned.
Next, the Democrats should tie further Senate-confirmable Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement nominees and judicial posts to a vote on DACA. They should say that they will not confirm nominees who might deport Dreamers until the kids are shielded by federal law. Sure, this will open the Democrats up to the usual ridiculous charges that they are “weak on security,” but President Trump has thoroughly exhausted that phrase already.
If Mitch McConnell does not bring a vote to the floor by March 5, Democrats should begin a rotating roster of private bill introductions. Private bills are bills that name specific people or organizations, and the introduction of a private bill into Congress usually forestalls an immigration action against that party. Democrats should constantly introduce private bills that name and shield thousands of DACA recipients at a time. Individual congressional offices should handle the creation of these bills and allow DACA recipients to apply directly with their office to be on a private bill. This will simultaneously shield Dreamers, place enormous public pressure on Republicans, and take up valuable floor time.
The Democrats should also mobilize their party machinery to protect Dreamers. Whether this means legal representation, private bill introductions, local protection, or monetary support, the Democratic political organization should be ready to provide it. Instead of spending money on campaign ads and canvassing, Democrats should spend it on protecting Dreamers.
This “strategy” is not simply naiveté. In addition to being the morally correct choice, going to such public and extreme lengths to shield Dreamers is a better campaign statement than any advertisement. The Republicans will permanently lose the high ground, and McConnell will be begging the Democrats to introduce a DACA bill in the Senate by the time campaign season winds up.
We are in the midst of one of the most significant civil rights issues of our time and the Republicans will most likely do nothing for Dreamers. It is time for Democrats to go all in on protecting the Dreamers from America’s worst intentions. It is time for the Democrats to lead with conviction.