On Tuesday, October 3, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing since the President’s controversial executive order reversing President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals, or DACA. That order was quickly followed by a controversial informal announcement of a deal with Democratic leaders.
The hearing, Oversight of the Administration’s Decision to End Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals did include some clarity from Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) on what he wants but what the President wants became murkier based on what some Republican Senators said they were told by the President at a dinner just before the hearing. That confusion increased by the end of the week, when reports surfaced that a key presidential advisor was drafting up demands that would kill any deal.
Senator Grassley opened the hearing by outlining his criticisms of the Obama Administration, saying that the program and order did not operate in the way they were supposed to. He also outlined three specific areas that he said he wanted in a revision and enactment of a DACA replacement: robust border security, better internal and employment enforcement, and a reform or review of the asylum system. He did say that when he addressed increased border enforcement he was not talking about a wall, pointing out that there was a border security fence law enacted under the President George W. Bush Administration and that security involved much more than a physical structure.
Ranking member Senator Dianne Feinstein used her opening comments to express her support to the bipartisan Graham-Durbin DREAMERS Act.
Testimony by the Administration was limited by virtue of the need to restrict comments on enforcement policies and practices in handling DACA children and policies. Justice and Homeland Security officials said that this was necessary because of current legal challenges and actions to the current DACA policy.
The real controversy came from comments of some Senate Republicans, who claimed that there was not a deal between the President and Democratic Leaders Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as they indicated. The presidential dinner was on Monday night and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) seemed to lead the charge in saying the President was much narrower in his demands, it should only cover current DACA or “dreamers” individuals, it need to stop some forms of immigration, and needed tougher enforcement. Cotton has taken a prominent role in blocking recent bipartisan deals on juvenile justice and justice reforms.
There are currently four bills in Congress that could replace DACA: the 2017 DREAM Act (S. 1615/HR 3440), the Hope Act (HR 3591), the Recognizing America’s Children (HR 1468) and the BRIDGE Act (HR 496). The National Immigration Law Center has an analysis of how these four bills differ with some attempting to merely transition out of the program with no eventual transition to citizenship to those that would continue the protections while allowing a path toward citizenship if certain conditions are met.
The DREAM Act sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and in the House by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) are the most desirable bills and closest to past DREAM Act legislation that dates back more than a decade.
CWLA has endorsed the bills and signed onto a support letter, as we have in past sessions of Congress.
By mid-week Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was drafting his modified DACA deal, putting him right in the middle of the crossfire. Also, this is significant since he is one of the more vulnerable Republican Senators up for reelection next year. By Thursday, newspaper articles circulating in Washington publications reported that Stephen Miller, a key Donald Trump advisor, was drafting a bill like Cotton’s recent proposal that would cut legal immigration in half in addition to other measures on undocumented aliens. That proposal would likely kill any agreement with
Congressional Democrats and some Republicans.