Failure of Immigration Bills Leaves DACA in Doubt

February 16, 2018

Leaders in the U.S. Senate brought four immigration bills to the floor for a vote Thursday, each needing 60 votes to advance. All four failed, leaving a solution for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in serious doubt.

The DACA program, an initiative of the Obama administration, provided temporary protection against deportation as well as work authorization to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants -- including many college-age recipients -- who were brought to the U.S. as children without documentation. DACA recipients, often referred to as Dreamers, have faced uncertainty over their status since President Trump announced in September that he would wind down the program.

Trump said Congress would have time to authorize a long-term fix for the program before a March 5 deadline. But even after a January government shutdown partially driven by demands from progressive Democrats for a DACA solution, lawmakers have failed to reach a deal. The failure to advance legislation Thursday puts DACA recipients in further jeopardy. But Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said in a written statement that now is not the time to walk away.

"Rather, now is the time for Congress to redouble its effort and strive to find a solution that will protect these individuals who were brought to this country as babies or young children. These young people, many of whom are part of our public university community, know of no other home than the United States and our government must deliver a solution for them," McPherson said. "The fact that it is difficult to reach an agreement in Congress pales in comparison to the difficulty that these young people and their families will face if a solution isn’t reached. Congress must reach an agreement that will allow for these young people to continue to flourish and contribute greatly to our nation’s economic growth."

Ted Mitchell, president and CEO of the American Council on Education, offered even stronger words. The Senate's failure is both "bitterly distressing and utterly unfathomable," he said in a written statement.

"Distressing because these are high-achieving and talented young people who seek only to contribute their knowledge, skills, and energy to America, the only country they have ever called home. Unfathomable because there is widespread support nationwide and across the aisle in Congress about the need to protect these outstanding individuals," he said. "We urge congressional leaders in both chambers: Come back to the table, do not allow extraneous issues to hold Dreamers hostage to a political face-off, and redouble your efforts to reach a bipartisan compromise. Not only is it in our nation’s best interest to keep our door open to these outstanding individuals, it is simply unacceptable and morally wrong to do otherwise."

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