Congressional Democrats are talking tough on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), demanding a standalone vote on the Dream Act and threatening to commit the legislative version of harassment if the vote doesn’t happen.
That’s good. And overdue.
Democrats have howled about the agenda of President Donald Trump and the Republican establishment, but too often they’ve offered few or no suitable alternatives to awful initiatives like the GOP’s health care bills and Trump’s request for border wall funding.
Complaining and obstructing aren’t enough. Americans demand leadership in D.C., regardless of which party is in the majority in Congress.
The Democrats don’t have much of a stick, but their response to Trump’s decision to wind down DACA is an example of how to lead from behind.
Instead of merely decrying Trump — which they’ve done loudly, as was warranted — they’ve used the move as an opportunity to spark support for lasting legislation and provide relief to the 800,000 people facing possible deportation if DACA is discontinued. They’ve also worked with immigration activists to develop a persuasive argument as to why Trump is wrong on the issue.
First, they’ve explained that Dreamers had no choice in being undocumented: They were born outside the U.S. and were brought here as children. As a result, many of them have little if any connection to the places where their parents came from. The children were raised in American communities, went to American schools, grew up with American friends and were steeped in American culture. Even Trump has suggested that uprooting them is unfair and cruel.
The Democrats also have helped expose despicable falsehoods told by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in announcing Trump’s wind-down. Dreamers do not “put our nation at risk of crime, violence and terrorism” and have not cost hundreds of thousands of Americans their jobs. In reality, Dreamers must have a nearly spotless record to be eligible for protection, and it was grossly unfair for Sessions to suggest they’re swooping in from other nations to steal jobs from American citizens given that most of them have been in the country most of their lives.
The truth is there are social and economic benefits to allowing Dreamers to stay here.
No wonder that Trump, after hearing the backlash from his order, has already indicated he’d revisit DACA if Congress can’t come up with a fix.
But meanwhile, Democrats already notified Republican leadership that short of a standing vote on the Dream Act, they would logjam the session by attaching versions of it to unrelated bills. Doing so would likely be a death-knell for conservative bills, so the tactic should get Republicans’ attention.
Now, Democrats need to apply their aggressive, constructive and proactive approach on DACA to other issues.
Their “Better Deal” platform, which they announced in July, isn’t enough. In too many cases, its policies are merely warmed-over ideas, like a massive infrastructure investment (which Trump also proposed), raising the minimum wage to $15 (splendid idea, but nothing new) and providing tax credits to employers for establishing retraining and apprenticeship programs (see minimum wage).
The Better Deal is fine, but it’s just a start.
As shown by defeats on health care, the border wall and other issues, Trump and the Republicans are deeply wounded politically and are ineffective as leaders.
It’s time for the Democrats to press for wider immigration reforms, better health care, renewable energy development and environmental protections that have been dismantled by Trump, as well as other issues where Americans expect progress.
DACA is showing them how.
For the Democratic Party to rebound from its disastrous election of 2016, it needs to take the current momentum and run with it.