Young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children have been fighting for months for their right to continue to live in this country. These “Dreamers” have organized and even taken to the streets to urge the Trump administration to protect DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), which essentially protects about 800,000 individuals from deportation.
But many Republicans want to end the program, created in 2012 by President Obama, altogether. In fact, last year a group of state officials threatened to sue the Trump administration if they didn’t end DACA by September 5. Although Trump himself called the decision “very, very hard to make,” he ultimately called on Congress to pass a replacement for DACA. He gave lawmakers six months — a March 2018 deadline — to come up with a solution before he would phase out DACA protections for good.
First of all, how do Dreamers feel?
"We need to stop putting Dreamers through a game of mental gymnastics," Leezia Dhalla, a Dreamer herself and press manager of the organization FWD.us, told MTV News. "When my DACA expires in less than four months, my entire life will be turned upside down. Without congressional action, I am going to lose everything I've worked so hard for, including my job, my apartment, my lifestyle, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing I will not be deported from the country I've called home for more than two decades."
What's Congress doing about this DACA dilemma?
While the March deadline is quickly approaching, DACA has actually become a central point of debate for a much sooner timeline: the January 19 deadline to fund our government. A number of Democrats say they won't support a government spending bill unless Congress can reach an agreement about DACA and more generally address immigration at the same time. This means Democrats could potentially shut down the government over the issue.
You may have noticed the topic made headlines on Tuesday, when a bipartisan group of legislators met with Trump at the White House to discuss the issue. During the meeting, which was actually televised, Trump caused a lot of confusion by appearing to agree with Democrats’ demands for DACA.
“We are going to do DACA, and then we can start immediately on the Phase 2, which would be comprehensive immigration reform,” Trump said during the meeting. “I would like that.”
The main roadblock legislators are facing revolves around the Mexican border wall: Namely, Trump will only protect DACA if Congress also votes to fund the wall.
Meanwhile in California...
To add to the confusion of these recent discussions, later that same Tuesday, a federal judge in California temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s original September decision to end DACA and ordered that the administration must again receive DACA renewal applications.
Trump and many Republicans were outraged by the decision.
This single ruling by a federal district court judge does not take the pressure off of Democrats in Congress to keep fighting for a larger, permanent solution, however. And those in Congress are still working on a deal right now.
What's happening with the deal Congress is crafting?
After the televised meeting, lawmakers reported that their negotiations now hang on four factors: the legal status of DACA recipients, border security, family-based immigration, and the visa lottery system.
The latest news on the deal is that it will reportedly legally protect Dreamers and help some immigrants who had “Temporary Protection Status” keep that status (like the 200,000 Salvadorans who are now facing an end to this status as soon as 2019). But the proposed deal would also benefit Republicans in that it aims to change the visa lottery program (which Trump wants to end entirely) and potentially make it hard for Dreamers to sponsor parents and relatives for citizenship. Perhaps most important of all to Trump, this deal will reportedly include some money for a wall on the Southern border.
Where do Americans stand on this issue?
Congress, Dhalla reasoned, should "finally pass a permanent legislative solution so Dreamers like me can get the stability we deserve."
And the majority of Americans agree with Dhalla, by a whopping margin of 8 to 1, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.