Liberal activists urge Democrats to protect C'bean DACA recipients or shut down government

Sunday, December 10, 2017

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — Reports in Washington say that liberal activists, eager for Democrats to assert what power they have left in the US Congress, are pressing Democratic leaders to shut down the government this Christmas if Republicans do not agree to shield young undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants from deportation.

On Friday, a divided United States Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration may temporarily shield documents concerning its decision to end a program that protected some 800,000 young, undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, from deportation.

Moderate Democrats fear the political blowback of a holiday crisis, and equivocal statements by top Democratic leaders are giving the left reason to believe that the party will lend enough votes to keep the government open past December 22, when the current spending bill is set to expire, according to the New York Times.

The paper said that has turned part of the liberal “resistance” — honed in the Trump era to target Republicans — against Democratic leaders.

“They have to be willing to go all the way to government shutdown,” said Tereza Lee, who helped stage a sit-in on Tuesday at Senator Chuck Schumer’s office in New York City demanding that he win protection for young undocumented immigrants threatened with deportation. “This is the only way. We can’t be weak.”

Schumer is the Democratic Minority Leader in the US Senate.

Frustrated immigration activists gathered at least three times this week at Schumer’s New York City office to demand that the senator publicly say that he would be willing to shut down the government if Republicans do not include an immigration measure in the end-of-the-year spending bill, the Times said.

It said, for immigration activists, that model is Republican.

In the Obama years, the Times said Republican lawmakers prompted three separate fiscal crises: demands fo deep spending cuts in 2011 nearly led to a debt default , efforts block funding for the Affordable Care Act in 2013 shut down the government for more than two weeks, then a push to defund Planned Parenthood in 2015, brought the government back to the brink.

Each effort brought a short-term hit to Republican popularity, but political repercussions had long faded by the time the elections of 2012, 2014 and 2016 rolled round, the Times noted.

It said Democrats now hold the whip, since no broad spending bill can clear the US Congress without their votes.

But Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, have not said overtly that they are willing to let funding lapse after December 22, the Times said.

Instead, Democratic aides say, bipartisan negotiations in the Senate should be allowed to progress without Democrats making threats to Republicans that may aggravate them, the paper said.

Schumer said the topic of immigration came up this week when he, Pelosi, House of Representatives’ Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, met with President Trump at the White House.

“There was no disagreement that it should be done,” said Schumer at an event in upstate New York. “The question was when, where, how and why, and those discussions are continuing. We hope to get it done before the end of the year.”

Talks have made some headway in resolving the threat hanging over young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, according to the Times.

It said those immigrants, known as Dreamers, were protected by the Obama administration’s DACA, but Trump rescinded the programme in September, giving Congress six months to respond before deportations could begin.

But immigration advocates want a harder line, the Times said.

“People are actually losing their protection from deportation, losing their ability to work, losing their ability to support their families,” said Nayim Islam, an immigrant rights organizer for Desis Rising Up & Moving, a group seeking broad legislation that protects young immigrants, called the Dream Act.

“The reality of what a government shutdown would mean for certain folks and their means of income or for jobs, that is already a reality for a lot of undocumented immigrants,” he added.

Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said that lawmakers had to make sure they “no longer play with the lives of young immigrants,” but added that she felt confident that an immigration deal would be reached.

“They have made a commitment to the immigrant rights movement and most importantly, they have made a commitment to Dreamers themselves that they will get this done by the end of the year,” she said of Democrats. “If the way to fulfill this commitment is to withhold their votes, that is what we are expecting them to do.”

Hincapié and others say they plan to hammer that message home in protests and coordinated calls to lawmakers, according to the Times.

Several liberal senators have vowed not to vote for a spending measure without a deal to protect Dreamers, including Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, as well as Richard Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democrat and the original author of the Dream Act, the Times said.

It said indivisible, a liberal activist organization, is asking its local chapters to push Democratic members of Congress to publicly commit to voting against the spending measure this month if no deal is reached over DACA.

“Even though Democrats love to take pictures with Dreamers and love to give big speeches about the Dream Act, when it comes down to their vote, they’re not willing to throw down for the Dream Act,” said Angel Padilla, the policy director for the group.

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