Only a month ago, the Democrats were talking smack about shutting down the federal government unless a legislative fix of some kind for the so-called “Dreamers” was included in the spending bill. The idea was that Paul Ryan would need some Democrat votes to pass a continuing resolution and those votes could be withheld if a Dreamer fix was not included. This always seemed a bit fanciful to me. If shutting down the federal government in 2013 in a principled fight over ObamaCare was unwise (hard to make that case considering the 2014 Senate elections, but people continue to declare it was a disaster) it is hard to see how shutting it down to rescue a smallish number of illegal aliens was going to play well. I’d bet Joe Manchin and other RedState Democrats crapped themselves at the thought of facing voters having voted against a tax cut and for legalizing illegal aliens.
No more. The Democrat leadership has decided that they really aren’t going to shut down the federal government over Christmas for Dreamers.
Democrats are backing away from a pledge to force a vote this month over the fate of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, angering activists but likely averting the threat of a government shutdown at a critical moment in spending negotiations with Republicans and President Trump.
With a deadline of midnight Friday to pass spending legislation, dozens of Democrats had vowed to withhold support if Republicans refused allow a vote on a measure known as the Dream Act that would allow roughly 1.2 million immigrants to stay legally in the United States.
But a group of vulnerable Democratic senators facing reelection in conservative states next year aren’t willing to go that far — meaning the party is unlikely to muster the votes to block the spending bill.
Where this may have an impact is in mobilizing the progressive foot soldiers needed if the Democrats are using “take back the Congress” as anything more than a fundraising scam:
“Don’t underestimate the disappointment and the anger of people who feel they’ve been hoodwinked or led astray,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), an outspoken advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) suggested that some lawmakers are less willing to enact a permanent solution for “Dreamers” because they can’t vote. “Well, they have relatives and neighbors and friends who vote,” he said.
Espaillat, himself an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, said he worried his colleagues misunderstand the story of DACA recipients. While a majority of them are from Latin America, he said, “a good number of the Dreamers are from India. There are Dreamers that are African, there are some who are European.”
This week, more than 1,500 young immigrants from California, New York, Texas, Montana and other states are on Capitol Hill pressuring Republicans to permit a vote on the Dream Act or similar legislation — and pressuring Democrats to play hardball.
About a dozen DACA recipients from Texas camped out on Monday in the lobby of the office of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), the only female Hispanic senator. She supports the Dream Act but has not said whether she would vote against a spending bill.
Members of the group shared their stories of immigrating to the United States, sang the spiritual, “We Shall Not Be Moved” in English and Spanish and shouted chants that bellowed down the cavernous halls of the Russell Senate Office Building.
“I am somebody! And I demand full equality!” they screamed. “Right here! Right now!”
Diana Alexander, a teacher from Houston traveling with the group, said activists are seeking “a specific response” from Democrats.
“Not only do you have to say that you’re with us, but we also want to have a promise — a verbal promise that you will not vote for this [spending bill] without including the Dream Act legislation along with it.”