Lobbyists Put Pressure Back on Congress to Save DACA Program

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Corporations and industry groups are mobilizing along with civil and immigrant rights organizations, educational institutions, and religious groups to lobby Congress to make permanent the Obama-era program that protects nearly 650,000 people brought to the U.S. as children.

Many lobbyists said the effort to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) continued as the Supreme Court considered the case, but they view the combination of the court’s June 18 decision that kept it in place and the political pressure of the election year as an opportunity to move forward on a more lasting solution through legislation.

“We’re four months out from an election in which the president is deeply underwater, in which the Senate majority is deeply imperiled — and deeply imperiled because there are tons and tons of voters who have said that they don’t like trying to deport Dreamers and family separation,” said Todd Schulte, the president of FWD.us, a bipartisan organization focused on overhauling the immigration and criminal justice systems.

Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg
Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court on June 18 when the high court issued a ruling blocking Trump’s decision to end the DACA program.

Proponents of the program argue that deporting Dreamers would eliminate $90 billion in tax revenue and create widespread economic losses that extend beyond the workers themselves.

Among the supporters is the Coalition for the American Dream, whose members include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, Amazon.com Inc., FWD.us, Chobani LLC, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

Lizzy Simmons, the vice president of government relations and workforce development at the National Retail Federation, said getting Dreamers “certainty is a top priority for the coalition and for NRF,” and that the group is seeking “the most viable package on a bipartisan basis that we can get across the finish line that’s tailored and targeted for Dreamers.”

Read More:Walmart, Intel Get in Dreamers’ Corner With Lobbying Push

The American Council on Education also formed a coalition with other education groups called Remember the Dreamers, urging a grassroots campaign to contact senators to take up legislation.

Action May Wait

Advocates are up against long-simmering disagreements among Democrats, Republicans and the Trump administration about how to handle the issue — and a dwindling number of legislative days left on the calendar. It could spill into next year, when Democrats hope to control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Several lobbyists said that in addition to lobbying lawmakers to pass a legislative solution they are also leveraging their contacts to urge the administration not to again seek to rescind DACA. President Donald Trump said after the Supreme Court ruling that he would move to end the program properly, but the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t started the rulemaking process.

Previous attempts to find a legislative fix to the DACA program have faltered, including in 2018 when a deal imploded after 11th-hour demands from the White House for other provisions, such as border wall funding. Stephen Miller, a senior adviser for policy to Trump and an advocate for immigration curbs, has been a key influence on policy.

“It’s hard to imagine that Miller is going to say to the president, ‘Yeah, you should sign a Dreamer only bill’ after basically having run this leverage play for three and a half years. They’re going to change their minds at the last minute?” said Stewart Verdery, the founder of Monument Advocacy who represents clients on the issue.

Support for Dreamers

Polling from the Pew Research Center this month found that 74% of Americans support giving permanent legal status to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released last week found that 69% of people who voted for Trump in 2016 want to protect Dreamers.

Senate Democrats last week called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to take up the House-passed American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), which would provide a path to citizenship for anyone who qualifies for DACA, even if they aren’t enrolled in the program, along with immigrants with Temporary Protected Status. It never moved in the Senate last year, and the White House threatened a veto.

“It’s not the perfect bill, and there’s certainly room for compromise there, but they’ve acted,” said Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The Senate needs to take up legislation.”

“This has been going on way too long,” he added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan R. Wilson in Washington at mwilson@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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