On October 8th, President Trump signed off on a long list of poison pill measures that threatens to kill the chances of enacting the Dream Act this year. In doing so, Trump seems to be following the lead of White House advisor Stephen Miller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, both of whom are ardent opponents of anything that would result in legal status for Dreamers.
We will be watching to hear from the President himself. If he indicates that 1) this is a wish-list meant to signal to his base that he’s still a hardliner, not a list of must-haves in any Dream Act deal; and 2) he’s willing to work with Democrats to pass a Dream Act without these poison pills by the end of the year; then it’s full steam ahead. If not, then Trump and the Republican Party are headed towards an ugly outcome. They will go down in history as the architects of one of the cruelest moves in American history: exposing 800,000 American young people to deportation from the country they love to countries they barely remember.
The White House and its GOP allies in Congress seem hell bent on going it alone on every challenge facing the country. It hasn’t worked for them so far on other issues, and it won’t work for them on this one, either. Let’s be clear that this move makes a GOP government shutdown more probable. By December 8th of this year, Congress has to approve a spending bill to keep the federal government open. If recent history is any guide, many Republicans will refuse to vote for any such spending measure. And if the Dream Act is not included in such a spending bill, the vast majority of Democrats will not vote for it. The bottom line, then, is that if Trump and Congressional Republicans don’t work with Democrats to solve the crisis brought about by Trump’s decision to end DACA, the Republican Party will be hurtling towards a government shutdown over an issue that more than 80% of the American people believe should be resolved so that Dreamers can stay in the country they call home.
More fundamentally, however, is that the President and his party don’t get it. The White House “principles” are anchored in an us vs. them zero-sum perspective, and they stand in stark contrast to the values embodied in our national motto of E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One. Our nationhood rests on the integration of pluralism, freedom and self-government. And it is because the vast majority of Americans still hold these values dear that we are optimistic that we will overcome whatever obstacles we encounter on our way to becoming the nation we are meant to be.
In the end, we are confident that America will recognize Dreamers as the Americans they already are. The question is whether Trump and the GOP are going to do this the hard way or the easy way.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund.