What now for Dreamers? Deportation unacceptable

In September, Diane Arnson Svarlien rallied in downtown Lexington in support of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program.
In September, Diane Arnson Svarlien rallied in downtown Lexington in support of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program. aslitz@herald-leader.com

If the anti-immigrant hardliners in the White House think the U.S. Senate is a tough audience, wait until they see how the public would recoil if federal agents round up Dreamers.

Almost 800,000 young people, including up to 5,459 in Kentucky, who were brought to this country as children gave the government their personal information so they could gain work permits and eventually, they hoped, citizenship through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

President Donald Trump last year ordered an end to DACA as of March 5. On Thursday, the White House torpedoed a bipartisan plan in the Senate that would have provided a 10-to-12-year path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented childhood arrivals and $25 billion over 10 years for border security. The bipartisan plan also prevented DACA participants from sponsoring their parents for legal status.

Despite what was described as a “furious White House campaign to defeat it,” the bipartisan plan came within six votes of the 60 needed, garnering votes from eight Republicans.

Trump’s anti-immigration framework went down to a harsher defeat, failing 39-60. Fourteen of the 51 Senate Republicans voted against advancing Trump’s plan, which shows that its only future is as a political wedge, which probably is all the White House ever wanted anyway.

Animated by his vile belief that dark-skinned immigrants are violent and/or uneducated, Trump’s policy also is bound to fail among Americans who know immigrants, even those without papers, as hardworking contributors to our communities and economy.

Trump’s “four-pillar framework” fails to address the labor needs of agriculture. Farmers, who overwhelmingly voted for Trump, have been seeking reforms to seasonal visa laws for years, but are getting only lip service and hypocrisy from a president who has helped his own businesses employ foreign guest workers.

The upsurge of arrests ordered by Trump provides a preview of the pain he would unleash and, if anything, is fueling sympathy for immigrants, even those who overstayed visas, such as as the 55-year-old chemistry teacher in Kansas who was detained as he took his daughter to school.

Or the 57-year-old Palestinian businessman who came here at 19, employed hundreds of people and was helping revitalize downtown Youngstown, Ohio; he was deported because his first marriage to a U.S. citizen had been ruled a sham.

Or the 39-year-old father of two from Michigan who was brought here 30 years ago as a child and is too old for DACA and was deported last month.

What’s next for DACA participants is unclear. After March 5, work permits will expire for hundreds of them daily. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seems unlikely to target them as a group. But they will be subject to deportation to countries they don’t remember, something most Americans would oppose.

Two federal courts have temporarily blocked DACA’s termination. The administration has taken the unusual step of seeking a Supreme Court hearing before an appeals court has reviewed the decisions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky opposed the bipartisan plan to protect Dreamers from deportation while also giving Trump billions to beef up the border. McConnell could have pushed it into the end zone, pressuring the House to act, perhaps even setting the stage for real immigration reform in a nation that has long thrived on the energy of newcomers.