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DACA, immigration advocates say they won’t support Trump’s wall but are open to some compromise

Obed Manuel

The Dallas Morning News

Dec 20, 2018

DALLAS — As President Donald Trump and leading Democrats clash over border security spending, immigration advocates are increasingly at odds, unsure about compromising with a president committed to limiting all forms of immigration. Although most say they don’t support the construction of a border wall in exchange for a path to citizenship for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, some feel that Democrats might have to give in to some of Trump’s demands if Congress can find a permanent solution for Dreamers before 2020.

DACA, as the program is known, was created by former President Barack Obama’s June 2012 executive order and has granted immigrants brought to the country illegally as children relief from deportation. They also get renewable two-year work permits.

“We want something clean that doesn’t go into this notion that many have in Congress that in order to provide some protection for a few, you have to punish others,” said Julieta Garibay, co-founder and Texas director of United We Dream, one of the largest Dreamer advocacy groups in the U.S.

A deal that included a DACA fix in exchange for $25 billion for a border wall fell apart in March.

Garibay said members of United We Dream from all across the country have told her they are unwilling to support any border wall funding or measures that could prevent new immigrants from coming to the U.S., including those who traveled in the migrant caravan Trump railed against in the weeks leading up the midterm election.

But Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the largest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S., said that compromise is the only way forward if a solution is to be viable before 2020.

While he does not support constructing a border wall, Garcia said he does support bolstering funding for technology-based methods of border security if it means Trump and Republicans will support a DACA fix.

Garcia said he sympathizes with other immigration advocates’ calls for an immigration reform deal that would include a path to legal status for the almost 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S., but that it isn’t a realistic goal.

“Asking for comprehensive immigration reform right now is asking for rainbows and unicorns. We need concrete proposals,” Garcia said. “Any compromise is going to have to include some amount of border security funding.”

Sparks flew last week when Trump said that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security” during a live televised meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

Pelosi doubled down against Trump a couple of weeks ago by saying that she and Democrats would not support any spending measure or DACA deal if it included the $5 billion the president is demanding for his campaign-promised border wall.

“They’re two different subjects,” Pelosi said of DACA and the border wall.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, is open to supporting a deal that includes a fix for Dreamers and border security funding, a spokesperson for his office confirmed.

Cornyn’s office did not immediately respond to whether he would support a clean DACA fix, one unattached to any increased border spending.

Schumer’s office also did not respond to a request for comment.

Ramiro Luna, a 35-year-old DACA recipient who for almost a decade lobbied tirelessly in D.C. and in the offices of Texas congressional representatives for a pathway to residency and eventual citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, said giving Trump money for his wall may be the only way for a DACA fix before 2020.

“Y’all want to waste money to put up a wall that isn’t going to do anything to fix the problem? Go ahead and waste your money. It’ll prove me right and we’ll get a DREAM Act,” Luna said.

The DREAM Act would have created a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youths. Luna said that seeing it fail several times in Congress changed his attitude. He no longer sees a clean solution as realistically possible.

“Even as a Dreamer, you want a picture-perfect piece of legislation that is all pro-immigrant without any type of measures that may be something we don’t want to see, but that’s not how politics is,” Luna said. “There has to be some type of give and take.”

Democrats have taken heat from immigration advocates on this issue before. Late last year, some Democrats and DACA recipients criticized Democrats for not pushing hard enough to find a solution for Dreamers when the Trump administration ordered DACA be shut down.

But, time is of the essence for DACA beneficiaries because the program could face a day in court next spring before the newly established conservative majority in the Supreme Court.

The Justice Department filed a request with the Supreme Court asking the justices to take up one of the DACA cases winding through the federal court system that halted the administration’s shuttering of the program.

In September 2017, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would be phasing out DACA, and Trump then urged Congress to strike a deal.

But that move was stalled by three different court cases, in California, New York and D.C. Three judges halted DACA’s closure and ordered the federal government to continued renewing DACA permits. No initial requests for DACA are being accepted.

Even a Texas-led effort that landed before a judge with a track record of being extra tough on immigration cases failed to win a nationwide preliminary injunction to halt the program, though the judge signaled that he would likely rule against DACA.

The Supreme Court has yet to take up any of these cases, though some legal experts believe it will likely hear arguments for one of the cases and decide DACA’s fate by next June.