Senate Rejects Bipartisan Plan to Protect Dreamers Amid Aggressive Opposition From Trump

The bill represented the best hope of passing protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.

Ting Shen/ZUMA

The bipartisan immigration plan that represented the Senate’s best chance to pass legislation to protect Dreamers—undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children—was defeated on Thursday afternoon. The final tally was 54 in favor, 45 against, with eight Republicans joining most Democrats in support. Sixty votes were needed to overcome a potential filibuster and advance the measure.

The proposal, which was introduced by 16 senators, including eight Republicans, would have provided Dreamers with a path to citizenship, while giving President Donald Trump the $25 billion in border security funding he requested. It would also have slightly reduced legal immigration—though not nearly as much as Trump wanted—and prioritized deporting immigrants with criminal records.

Last month, Trump said he would sign essentially whatever immigration legislation Congress could agree on. “If they come to me with things I’m not in love with, I’m gonna do it,” he said. “Because I respect them.” But that was flexibility was nowhere to be seen on Thursday.

Early Thursday morning, shortly after midnight, the Department of Homeland Security put out a statement saying the bipartisan plan would lead to “the end of immigration enforcement in America” and make the country a “Sanctuary Nation.” Later in the day, the White House threatened to veto the plan. One hour after that, a White House official, who asked not be named, upped the ante by saying the bill was “so spectacularly poorly drafted” that the White House was “officially asking the sponsors of the bill to withdraw their sponsorship, allowing for the possibility that they were simply grievously misinformed about the bill’s outrageous contents.” Trump topped it off by weighing in on Twitter:

The fierce opposition highlights a reality that has been clear for months: The White House is determined to extract as much as possible from any deal protecting the Dreamers it ostensibly wants to help. Behind the scenes, the Trump administration is reportedly telling Republican senators that the Supreme Court will likely overturn a court ruling that requires it to continue accepting renewals for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives nearly 700,000 Dreamers work permits and protection from deportations.

After moving to end DACA in September, Trump has repeatedly insisted that he wants DACA recipients to stay in the United States. He has told Dreamers they have “nothing to worry about” and said he doesn’t understand why anyone would want to deport them. But in recent months he has appeared to be increasingly persuaded by his hardline advisers, chiefly Stephen Miller.  

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made clear on Thursday that Miller’s influence won’t lead to any relief for Dreamers. As long as Miller is “running the White House,” he said at a press conference in the Capitol, “we’re going nowhere fast warp speed.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.