After a federal appeals court upheld a ruling that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is illegal, Democrats in Congress and the executive are again making a push for amnesty, calling on Republicans to support them — with just weeks to go until the midterm elections.
The 5th Circuit three judge panel determined on Wednesday that the Obama administration did not have the authority to institute the program in 2012 – which grants protection from deportation for illegal immigrants who had come to the country as minors.
The decision upholds a 2021 Texas court ruling, and prevents any more enrollments in the controversial program. However, it does not affect the approximately 700,000 already enrolled in it.
With the program on ice, Democrats who have been calling for years for a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants — including DACA recipients, whom they call “Dreamers” — are renewing those calls.
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“While this ruling keeps the existing DACA program in place, it continues to deny other eligible recipients the possibility to receive protection,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “For these reasons, it is time for Republicans to join Democrats in supporting legislation that will codify these life-saving protections and ensure Dreamers have the opportunity to finally receive the citizenship they’ve worked hard to earn.”
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., said the ruling “further underscores the need for Republicans to work with Democrats to swiftly take up and pass legislation” to grant “permanent protections” for DACA recipients.
“Dreamers are integrated in our communities and contribute billions of dollars to our economy. They work as teachers, nurses, farm workers, and in many other essential jobs — and they deserve relief once and for all. I call on all my colleagues to treat this issue with the urgency it deserves,” he said.
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Democrats and the Biden administration have pushed for a pathway to citizenship since day one of the administration — when the White House unveiled an immigration proposal that would give a pathway to citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, including immediate green card eligibility for DACA recipients.
However, Democrats have been scuppered by a slim majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes are needed to break the filibuster. Republicans have so far ruled out granting amnesty to illegal immigrants until the crisis at the border is resolved.
Democrats attempted to use the budget reconciliation process to force through an amnesty as part of a broader Build Back Better Act last year but lost the support of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
In 2022, relief for illegal immigrants has been largely put on the back burner, but activists have expressed concern that the prospects could worsen for such a deal if Republicans take the House and possibly the Senate as well in the upcoming midterms.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., called for 10 Republicans senators to back legislation that would grant “permanent protections” for DACA recipients — while also calling for executive action from the White House.
“Now that the district court considers the future of the program within the context of the Biden Administration’s DACA rule, President Biden must use his existing authority to protect Dreamers who are ineligible to apply for DACA,” he said.
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“President Biden must also offer more protections for every Dreamer that stands to lose so much if the courts eventually rule against DACA altogether. And if we hope to deliver permanent protections for DACA recipients, we need 10 Republicans in the Senate to help us end the uncertainty for Dreamers once and for all,” he said in the statement.
In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted that Democrats have passed legislation to offer illegal immigrants — including DACA recipients — a pathway to citizenship, and called on Senate Republicans to do the same.
“Senate Republicans must join us to immediately pass this urgent, necessary, House-passed legislation and send it straight to President Biden’s desk,” she said.
The Biden administration has moved to strengthen DACA with a recent regulation over the summer to overcome legal challenges. On Tuesday, President Biden issued a statement that called for bipartisan cooperation in Congress — but also took sharp aim at Republicans across the country for pushing an “extreme agenda.”
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“Today’s decision is the result of continued efforts by Republican state officials to strip DACA recipients of the protections and work authorization that many have now held for over a decade,” he said. And while we will use the tools we have to allow Dreamers to live and work in the only country they know as home, it is long past time for Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, including a pathway to citizenship.”
“My Administration is committed to defending Dreamers against attacks from Republican officials in Texas and other States. This challenge to DACA is just another example of the extreme agenda being pushed by MAGA-Republican officials,” he said.