As the most unproductive congressional year in recent history winds down, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will be under tremendous pressure to pass an omnibus spending package that keeps the federal government open beyond Dec. 8, when the current funding authority expires. With a 239 member majority, Republicans should not need any help from Democrats to pass this bill. Yet, if anything has been made clear over the past ten months, it is the utter inability of Republicans and their president to lead. Republicans currently control all branches of government, including both houses of Congress. Under normal circumstances, this would mean a strong, unified collective governing body. But these aren’t normal circumstances and, so far this year, Republicans have needed significant help from House Democrats to pass funding legislation to keep the government open.
If Speaker Ryan does not call a vote on the DREAM Act (H.R. 3440) as a standalone bill, which would pass with bipartisan support, then he has two ways to approach the pending funding vote. First, he can choose to coalesce his Republican colleagues, including the extreme factions, and enact a hardline budget that drastically cuts funding for essential programs, all while attempting to increase funding for the unpopular border wall. With this, the Speaker would appease a small group of lawmakers at the expense – literally – of most Americans, which is a huge risk that would place Republicans in a difficult position heading into an election year.
Or, the second and more likely scenario: Speaker Ryan can choose to keep the government open by presenting a workable budget that Democrats could support, which must include a clean version of the DREAM Act. Such a spending package would reflect broad, bipartisan American values, not just the narrow interests of extremist Republicans.
The DREAM Act could be a unifying force between Republicans and Democrats in what has otherwise proven to be a polarizing political environment.
Ever since President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in September the end of DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program started by President Obama in 2012—the clock has been ticking. DACA grants temporary, revocable protection from deportation to DREAMers, young immigrants who arrived to the U.S. as children. Unless Congress takes action soon, DREAMers protected by DACA will become deportable, and this administration has shown that they want to deport everyone they can. It doesn’t matter to Trump and his administration that these young DREAMers have each lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more and that they’ve passed multiple and thorough background checks. It doesn’t matter to them that these are productive and contributing members of our society, raising families and bettering our communities. It doesn’t matter to them that for DREAMers – many of whom have never even been back to the places where they were born – the U.S. is their home.
Nobody except for a small extreme faction in the Republican Party thinks deporting DREAMers is a good idea. Every poll indicates that the American people favor legal status for these young immigrants by a 4-to-1 margin. The overwhelming support crosses party, class, geographic and racial lines.
Yet, Speaker Ryan and other Republicans have insisted that measures to escalate border security and deportations must be coupled with legislation to legalize the status of DREAMers, even though the issues of border security and deportations have nothing to do with the legal status of DREAMers.
We are confident that if the Speaker allowed a vote tomorrow on the DREAM Act as it stands, without poison pill amendments, the majority in the House of Representatives would support it by a comfortable margin.
So call a vote, Mr. Speaker, or deal with a clear choice: work with Democrats on a proposal with broader appeal – that includes a clean DREAM Act – or opt for a hardline Republican-only budget that excludes the DREAM Act and forgo Democratic votes.
The choice is for the Speaker to make. As a group, we are actively whipping among our colleagues to create a critical mass of Democratic votes that will not support a funding package that fails to include a clean DREAM Act. We are confident that Democrats from our Leadership to the rank-and-file – and even some Republicans – will stand with us when we get to December.
The hundreds of thousands of DREAMers who came forward to register with the government as part of the DACA program trusted the government to live up to its end of the bargain and we will fight to make sure the promise is kept. We believe that Speaker Ryan is proficient enough at math to understand that the path forward requires giving members of Congress the opportunity to pass the DREAM Act without harsh amendments that would diminish both the spirit of the bill and support for it.
By Luis V. Gutiérrez (Ill.), Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Ruben Gallego (Ariz.0, Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), Wm. Lacy Clay (Mo.), Nydia M. Velázquez (N.Y.), José E. Serrano (N.Y.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (Calif.), Jimmy Gomez (Calif.), Chellie Pingree (Maine), Albio Sires (N.J.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), James P. McGovern (Mass.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.), Grace F. Napolitano (Calif.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Ro Khanna (Calif.)