By Taylor Cain
United States congressional budget negotiations remain stalled over immigration as the February 8 deadline for the budget bill quickly approaches. The dispute between Democrats and Republicans over immigration – particularly undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children and President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, led to the three-day government shutdown on January 20 and could lead to another on February 8 if a bipartisan deal cannot be reached.
Trump rejected a bipartisan immigration proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in January, Politico reported. Almost 40 senators met on January 24 and agreed to let Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Senate Minority Whip Durbin lead the immigration negotiations.
Prior to January’s government shutdown, Democrats and Republicans reached a deal on immigration and intended to include it in the budget. Trump originally agreed to the deal but changed his mind. Republican senators followed Trump and rescinded their bipartisan immigration plan. Unable to secure enough Democrats to pass the budget that did not include funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the budget failed in the Senate and the government shutdown.
In September, Trump announced he would rescind the DACA program. Protection for DACA recipients, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, ends March 5 unless Trump can reach a deal with Congress. While Trump would not guarantee a DACA extension, Politico reported, on January 24 he said he was considering a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, Politico reported. The possible citizenship timeline is 10 to 12 years. When asked by reporters what he would tell DACA recipients whose time in the United States is expiring, Trump said, “Tell them not to worry.”
Both Democrats and Republicans are generally in favor of DACA recipients. On January 27, Trump tweeted, “I have offered DACA a wonderful deal, including a doubling in the number of recipients & a twelve year pathway to citizenship, for two reasons: (1) Because the Republicans want to fix a long time terrible problem, (2) To show that Democrats do not want to solve DACA, only use it!”
Trump requested $25 billion for his wall on the United States-Mexico border and an additional $5 billion for border security, Politico reported. During the government shutdown, Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered to authorize $20 billion in the budget for Trump’s border wall in exchange for DACA recipient protection, CNN reported. Trump eventually rejected Schumer’s olive branch and Schumer rescinded the offer after the government reopened on January 22.
“March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Democrats are doing nothing about DACA. They Resist, Blame, Complain and Obstruct – and do nothing. Start pushing Nancy Pelosi and the Dems to work out a DACA fix, NOW!” Trump tweeted on February 1.
In Trump’s State of the Union address on January 30, he referred to undocumented immigrants as gang members and killers, The New York Times reported. Family members of an American killed by MS-13, the international criminal gang, sat in the House chamber while Trump gave his speech.
Trump did not express any willingness to make a deal on immigration with the Democrats during his speech, The New York Times reported. He angered Democrats with a tease on DACA recipients, who are also referred to as Dreamers, when he said, “Americans are dreamers, too.”
The race to cut a spending deal by February 8 relies on DACA negotiations and finalizing immigration in the congressional budget, Politico reported. Democrats and Republicans want a long-term budget agreement, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) remains faithful to Trump and refuses to add DACA recipients to the budget.
The Democrats conceded to McConnell during the shutdown and removed DACA recipients from the budget negotiations on the condition that McConnell would allow them to introduce an immigration bill which includes protection for DACA recipients.