On Thursday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin are set to introduce legislation to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, reviving hopes that the Senate might finally pass a version of the immigration reform DREAM Act, more than 15 years after it was first proposed in 2001 by Durbin and Utah Republican Orrin Hatch.
But before the pair could even unveil the bill on the Senate floor, White House officials had already sworn not to support it, despite its bipartisan origins as well as the administration’s repeated insistence that people currently covered by President Obama’s DACA program—which was created in response to the Senate’s failure to pass previous versions of the DREAM Act—would not be targeted under Donald Trump’s ongoing anti-immigrant actions.
“It’s enforcement first,” one White House official told McClatchy. “Then we can get to all these other things.”
The sentiment was expressed even more bluntly by White House legislative affairs director Marc Short, who spoke with reporters in an off-camera press briefing on Wednesday.
“The administration has opposed the DREAM Act,” Short explained. “And we are likely to be consistent in that.”
The Graham-Durbin bill would essentially replicate the existing DACA protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age, but would also afford DREAMers a path to citizenship based on having been employed for at least three years, “and at least 75% of that time the person has had employment authorization.”
The White House’s signal that it would not support the proposed legislation was a welcome sign to immigration hardliners. Speaking with McClatchy, Roy Beck, president of the anti-immigration group NumbersUSA, praised the administration.
“I’m relieved to hear that the White House is rejecting the new DREAM bill,” Beck said. “Because it suggests that the president at the very least is not inclined to a stand-alone amnesty that doesn’t address the cause of the problem.”
Meanwhile, President Trump faces a September 5 deadline for his decision whether or not to rescind President Obama’s DACA program. If it is not rescinded, it will likely head to federal court. Should that happen, it remains unclear whether the Trump administration’s Justice Department will defend it at all.