WASHINGTON D.C. Congress and the White House are racing to carve a compromise that could set the fate for two controversial issues – Pres. Donald Trump’s Border Wall and former Pres. Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) – that fan much of ardor between Democratic and Republican partisans.
The two issues have very much defined the crafting a budget to stave off a possible government shutdown this week. The Democrats have said funding the President’s border wall was a “non-starter” in budget negotiations; the GOP warned DACA will slide to its death in the Spring unless it’s paired with funding for the wall and enhanced border security.
Meanwhile, San Francisco’s 9th Federal Circuit Court Judge William Alsup ruled on Jan. 9 that the Trump administration must maintain the DACA program “pending final judgment or other order”, virtually freezing the President’s September 2017 order scrapping it by March this year. The court’s order covered the entire US.
DACA shields about 800,000 people – including some 6,000 Filipinos – brought to the US illegally by their parents as children from arrest and deportation. There are actually an estimated 22,000 Filipinos who qualified for it but only a third availed of the program.
The DACA also provides for employment authorization documents (EADs). Based on the Trump edict, the window for submitting applications of EAD renewals (for those expiring between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 when the White House order stipulates the DACA program ends) is believed to have closed last Oct. 5, 2017.
Judge Alsup’s order appears to mandate the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to continue processing applications for DACA renewal but cannot accept new applications. His ruling could potentially help an estimated 10,000 DACA recipients who’ve reportedly already lost their protected status.
In order to qualify for DACA, applicants under the age of 30 were required to submit personal information to DHS, including addresses and phone numbers. They had to pass an FBI background check, have a clean criminal background, and either be in school, recently graduated or have been honorably discharged from the military. In exchange, the US government agreed to “defer” action for a period of two years, which can be extended.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders described the ruling as “outrageous”. She pointed out that “an issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process,” raising the ante for Congress.
“It is important to remember, however, this is temporary relief by a single federal district court judge, it should not take the pressure off of Congress to do the right thing and enact a permanent solution for these young people,” said Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center, according to CNN.
In a conference aired live on TV featuring Pres. Trump and congressional budget negotiators from both sides of the political aisle, Democrats and Republicans vowed to work together on a new immigration bill to protect border security, chain migration, the visa lottery system and DACA.
Those four key issues could determine whether a budget agreement can be ironed out before Jan. 19 when the federal government reportedly runs out of money. Although the federal court’s order seems to raise questions about what would happen to DACA if Congress cannot address it by March, the government does face a ticking clock on the budget.
The budget negotiations include $1.6 billion that Pres. Trump is asking for his border wall. That is largely seen as just a down payment for a wall that the President earlier promised would be paid by Mexico. “As I made very clear today, our country needs the security of the Wall on the Southern Border, which must be part of any DACA approval,” the President tweeted following the meeting with congressional budget negotiators.
“It’s almost impossible to overstate the symbolic importance the wall holds for Trump. Throughout his campaign for president, he used it as a representation of everything he would offer his supporters: a way to keep out not only immigrants diluting the country’s whiteness but the very forces of modernity and change,” Washington Post opinion writer Paul Waldman pointed out.