White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say on Monday whether the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented people currently living in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be safe from deportation unless President Donald Trump gets his big ticket immigration policy items.
During the daily White House press briefing—conducted just hours after the Senate voted to reopen the federal government—Sanders was asked whether the president would begin to deport DACA recipients if he doesn’t get the immigration concessions he wants—including funding for the southern border wall, an end to “chain migration,” and ending the visa lottery program—by March 5. That’s when the six-month deadline Trump gave Congress to fix DACA when he rescinded it is up.
“We haven’t determined that. We’re hopeful that we don’t have to do that and we don’t have to get there,” Sanders replied—a true non-denial if ever there was one.
We would like Democrats to get serious about actually solving problems. They say they want to have this conversation, they say they say they want to negotiate—so much so that they were willing to shut down the government—if they’re that willing to go that far, surely they’re willing to come to the table and talk about real solutions.
When the same reporter pointed out that it was Trump who removed the deportation protection extended to DACA recipients by the Obama administration, Sanders said that Trump was simply the one enforcing the law.
“He did that, absolutely,” she said, before going on to blame Congress for failing to pass a DACA fix before the president’s six-month timeframe expired.
Let’s be clear what’s happening here: Republicans are happy to own their share of the president’s DACA crackdown when it’s politically convenient. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made this plain when he flattened DACA to an “illegal immigration” issue during the short-lived government shutdown. Now that the shutdown is over, with the Democrats selling out DACA recipients yet again, it’s in the administration’s best interest to make saving them a congressional problem rather than one that Trump created.
That Trump and his administration cronies would use undocumented young people brought to this country as children as political pawns isn’t unexpected at all—but that doesn’t make it any less craven.