Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: Dreamers' fate sits with GOP Congress. So ... doom.


President Trump claims that he harbors some mysterious "great love" for the 800,000 Dreamers whom he has just exposed to deportation.

To paraphrase from the Book of John, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man chooseth to deport his friends....." But hey, at least Trump offers a path to salvation for those hundreds of thousands now hanging on the brink of ruin, facing exile from the only country most have ever known:

Their fate lies with Congress.

But maybe it's not so bad, right?

A few days ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan was strongly urging Trump NOT to strip the Dreamers of legal protections; when Trump did so anyway, Ryan applauded the move that he had previously opposed because ....  oh, hell, I don't know. Because the man has no backbone?  Anyway, like Trump, Ryan is on record as endorsing legislative action to reinstate provisions of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

“It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country,” Ryan says.

With the executive branch and the House both on board, that leaves the Senate.

While Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken no stance on legislative action to reinstate DACA protections, a number of his fellow Republican senators have come out in favor of such a move. Such legislation would easily attract more than 50 votes in the Senate, where Democrats hold 48 seats. If President Trump would be willing to act on this "great love" that he professes and publicly push the measure, it would probably draw the 60 Senate votes needed to end a filibuster and get the bill to his desk.

Meanwhile, the sentiment of the American public could not be more clear. Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for allowing Dreamers to remain in the country. In the most recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, 58 percent supported allowing Dreamers to remain with a path to becoming citizens. An additional 18 percent support allowing them to stay as legal residents but not as potential citizens. That's a total of 76 percent in favor of letting them stay. Just 15 percent of Americans support their deportation, which is the path that we are now headed down unless Congress acts.

So with overwhelming public support behind it, everything seems in place for a successful rescue operation. Once Ryan schedules a vote in the House, a legislative version of DACA will pass pretty easily, with unanimous Democratic support and a substantial number of Republicans. It will then go to the Senate, where 60 votes also seem attainable. And President Trump, based on his statements, would of course rush to sign the legislation.

Problem solved, right? Finally, a much-ridiculed GOP Congress is going to get its act together and accomplish something that a vast majority of Americans want done, right?

Wrong.

Ryan won't allow a House vote because he doesn't dare to anger the conservatives in his caucus.

McConnell won't allow a Senate vote, because that would expose the split in his own GOP caucus.

And despite his touching professions of concern, love and "great heart," Trump doesn't dare to cross his anti-immigrant base by trying to force congressional action.  He'll beat up McConnell and Republican senators in a heartbeat when the issue is, say, tax reform. But on DACA?

Nada.

On DACA he'll say just enough to shift the blame onto Congress, but not enough to force action. Because that's the kind of man he is.

 


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.