Editor’s Note: On the House floor March 6, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) addressed his colleagues about the DACA program, the March 5 deadline, now expired, to address it in Congress, and the President’s responsibility for the failure of Washington to take action.
March 5th was the deadline for the U.S. Congress to secure the futures of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers — our constituents who grew up in the United States, have been here at least 10 years, but do not have permanent legal immigration status and are therefore deportable, vulnerable, and exploitable.
And guess what? The cynics were right and Congress has taken no action. There have been a few attempts, but the reality is that Congress has not passed a bill and the opportunities for us to pass a bill are dwindling.
How did we get here? How is it that we always end up here when it comes to immigration?
I have been here long enough to know that even when faced with a deadline; even when faced with an issue on which 80% of the American people agree – whether it is sensible gun control or preventing the deportation of children raised in América – it is the other 20% of the American people who Republicans are listening to and playing to and tweeting to and playing nice-nice with the White House to appease.
Well, it has been a failure of both parties to act, to compromise and to legislate…but let’s be honest, the President doesn’t want these immigrants in his country and Republicans in Congress only want to do what the President wants them to do because they fear his tweets and the effect it might have on their voters in November.
Oh, the President said he loved Dreamers. Remember? He wanted to preserve DACA and treat them “with heart.” He said he wanted to give a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and he told a group of lawmakers on national television that he would take the political heat and sign whatever bipartisan approach they were able to come up with…
But he was lying. Again.
Just like his conversations with lawmakers on guns after the massacre in Florida – also with the television cameras rolling – what the President says in public, what he does behind closed doors, what he tweets, and what he thinks from moment to moment do not seem to be connected in any logical way.
And when the TV cameras are turned off, the radical right wing whispers their orders in the President’s ear and he falls right in line – whether it’s with the gun manufacturers or the anti-immigration nativists.
And when you cannot trust the President to have a stable opinion for more than two or three hours, it makes it hard for Republicans to figure what will please him from moment to moment.
And in the end, the President is not interested in Dreamers – or at least not interested in them as anything more than a bargaining chip.
Bipartisan proposals that could have passed the House and Senate were brought to him and he rejected them, saying that he wanted to eliminate various types of legal immigration avenues used by people –especially people of color and people from the developing world – and without these massive cuts to legal immigration, the President wasn’t interested.
And we offered him money for his silly, mindless, stupid, dimwitted and racist wall, but that was rejected too.
This is not about Dreamers, it is not about the wall, it is not about border security, it is about a deeply held core belief of the President and many of his advisors that there are too many people of color coming as legal immigrants. There are too many family members of immigrants unless those immigrants are members of Trump’s own family.
In the end, it is clear that the President doesn’t want immigrants who look like the diverse and colorful fabric of the world – and he doesn’t want Dreamers who were raised in the U.S. alongside our other children who reflect the diversity of America.
Now, to be fair, many of my Democratic colleagues are just as happy about the injunctions in the federal courts that are keeping the Trump deportation machine from fully engaging and going after the Dreamers. Lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – do not need much encouragement to kick the can down the road.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Relying on the courts to save the Dreamers is a cop out and a lot of people are left out if they didn’t already have DACA. And for the ones who can renew their status, we may be back here in a few days or weeks trying to prevent the deportation of Dreamers and lots of other immigrants if the courts change course.
So, I will not let my colleagues in either party rest.
For now, every person who has DACA should renew their DACA as quickly as possible for whatever time we have left. Run, don’t walk.
I have been here long enough to know that even when faced with a deadline; even when faced with an issue on which 80% of the American people agree – whether it is sensible gun control or preventing the deportation of children raised in America – it is the other 20% of the American people who Republicans are listening to and playing to and tweeting to and playing nice-nice with the White House to appease.
And the rest of us get nothing, on immigrants, on guns, on climate change, on health care, and on taxes. Unless we as voters reshuffle the deck.
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
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