Congressional minority leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer can hardly claim to be surprised that Donald Trump did what Donald Trump often does - that is, tweeted something intemperate and ill-advised. And while it’s their prerogative to abandon a planned meeting with the president over a tweet, neither they nor their Republican counterparts in Congress should allow this melodrama to distract them from passing legislation to protect the Dreamers.
The Dreamers are the nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and were protected from deportation and allowed to apply for work permits under the previous administration. A prospective fix to shield Dreamers from deportation has been anchored to a spending deal designed to avert a government shutdown by Dec. 8. But those negotiations are proving to be contentious. Dreamers shouldn’t be penalized by the inability of Congress to pass something unrelated.
The Trump administration announced in September that the program protecting Dreamers would end on March 5. Thousands of Dreamers are already vulnerable to deportation. Thousands more will fall into the deportation trap before the March deadline arrives.
Despite rhetoric about targeting “bad hombres,” the facts on the ground suggest that the Trump administration’s deportation fever is not finely calibrated. That much was evident by federal agents’ pursuit of a sick 10-year-old to her hospital bed in October, and subsequent detention of her apart from her family.
Pelosi and Schumer, minority leaders of the House and Senate, respectively, want protections for Dreamers extended, and claimed in September that they had struck a deal with Trump to achieve that. Republican leaders say they are also sympathetic to Dreamers’ plight. (House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., in September said Dreamers could “rest easy.”) And Trump, for what it’s worth, has publicly said he wants to shield Dreamers.
There is no tenable moral, economic or social argument to expel Dreamers. Most have grown up as Americans. Many know no other country. They are significant contributors to the U.S. economy and tax rolls. And many are integrated not only into their communities, but into families that include American citizens.
“I don’t see a deal,” Trump tweeted Tuesday about a prospective spending bill. If that’s the case, then Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should expedite separate legislation - a bipartisan bill is ready to go in the Senate - to keep Dreamers from suffering the unconscionable effects of Washington’s dysfunction.