Five Reasons for Dreamers in 2017

Less than a month till funding bills must make their way through Congress in order to keep the government open. Easily the best vehicle we have for Dreamer legislation.

But the contours of an agreement are getting murky as House and Senate working groups put forward enforcement heavy proposals that slow the momentum.

So, five reasons why it is important Congress get a deal done this year:

  1. The youth vote. Yes, the suburbs of Northern Virginia are not the suburbs of, say, Houston. But the youth turnout (18–29) in Virginia increased 8 points since 2013 to 34%, doubling 2009’s turnout. Given how deeply Dreamer legislation resonates among young Americans, holding up a win could be a win-win for Republicans. Or as Governor Kasich said on CNN’s SOTU, “The millennials and the Gen X’ers are going to equal the baby boomers in 2018. … [they are] totally up for grabs.”
  2. The GOP primaries. Safe to say that Steve Bannon and his ilk are ready to double down — even if Democrats only need to pickup 24 seats to take back the House. Here’s the thing. The Cook Political Report counts 61 Republican districts as “competitive.” Most all of these districts are well-off and well-educated. And a good number of them are fairly diverse. Nearly two dozen House Republicans see the handwriting on the wall: they recently held a press conference calling on Speaker Ryan to move Dreamer legislation by the end of the year.
  3. Voters got your back. Rest well, dear Republicans, there is broad support for a legislative solution. Fox News pegged support at 83% in September; veterans (Robert Gates and others), law enforcement (Houston and Cedar Rapids), evangelicals, and business leaders are all loudly advocating for a solution. Stop looking a gift horse in the mouth. (They bite.)
  4. Implementation takes time. We partnered with the Niskanen Center to release an infographic making the case it could take a minimum of 7 months to setup and implement a law. With 1,000 people a day losing DACA protections starting on March 5, 2018, that would be 210,000 people. The clock is ticking.
  5. Old and white, versus young and brown. Go back to the avalanche of news after Trump decided to sunset DACA. To his base, he looked great. To the rest of the country, he looked cruel. In the face of the backlash, Trump quickly said he would consider extending the program. Congressional Republicans, just as they take on primary opponents chosen by Bannon, will find themselves in a similar (but sharper) corner should they wait till February/March to find a legislative solution. This is not a narrative that leads to good things. The pressure will only increase.

Most importantly, Dreamer legislation is a small slice of the raft of immigration challenges ahead. Temporary Protected Status, agricultural workers, and many other issues remain unresolved. Getting something “easy” done will go a long way to building a little confidence in the system.

But this isn’t going to be easy.


PS. Last week, we released a new report, For the Love of Country: New Americans in our Armed Forces. I wrote in the Waco Tribune-Herald, “To keep America secure in a dangerous world, immigrants ready and willing to enlist are needed more than ever.”

President and CEO of National Immigration Forum, author of “Crossing Borders” (April 2022, Rowman & Littlefield), host of the podcast, Only in America.