Last week started with the White House releasing its immigration policy priorities–a set of demands that would need to be part of legislation to address the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. This raised a lot of concern about the possibility to get legislation, such as a clean Dream Act, passed into law, but let’s break this down step-by-step.
The White House priorities call for building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, making it easier to deport children fleeing violence in their home country, making it more difficult for refugees to seek asylum in the U.S., punishing sanctuary cities and states, expanding the size of the immigration enforcement workforce, expanding the use of detention and deportation, and restricting the issuance of green cards to a narrower definition of family members.
In short, this list includes every proposal to curtail immigration and increase deportations that President Trump has articulated thus far, many of which are opposed by members of his own party. Many observers believe that the release of this litany of anti-immigrant measures was orchestrated by one of the president’s advisers, Stephen Miller, who has spent much of his career advancing restrictionist immigration policies and blocking attempts at progressive immigration reform.
In the days since the White House released its priorities, no Member of Congress from either major party who previously expressed support for DACA recipients, said anything positive about the priorities. This is significant because it’s Congress, not the White House, that writes legislation. In other words, the ball is still in Congress’ court. They’re the ones who get to decide what a bill will look like–whether it includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers, or simply codifies DACA into law, and what, if any, immigration enforcement or border security measures get included.
The only constitutional role the president has in this process is to sign or veto the legislation that Congress puts on his desk. Significantly, the president’s letter to Congress last week did not include a veto threat. Based on the president’s own previous statements about needing to find a way to allow DACA recipients to stay in the country after the program ends on March 5, 2018, it’s difficult to imagine him vetoing a bipartisan bill that does exactly that.