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EDITORIAL: Unfortunate DACA ‘pawns’ in DC budget battle showdown

As lawmakers in Washington wrangle over an omnibus spending bill that will continue to fund the federal government past midnight Friday, it’s unfortunate and short-sided to throw into those negotiations questions over what to do with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) participants.

These should be two completely separate issues. The fate of the 800,000 youth — including 200,000 in Texas who were brought here illegally as children and whose program President Donald Trump has said will end beginning next year — should not be used as pawns in this fiscal fight.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, in a conference call with media Wednesday blamed Democrats for inflicting DACA youth into this spending fight, saying: “As we work to give these DACA participants greater clarity in these uncertain times, I think the last thing that our Democratic colleagues should do is threaten to shut down the government and punish 320 million people, not to mention our military and those serving in harm’s way. That would be completely irresponsible action.”

It’s irresponsible to mention them at all.

We do commend Sen. Cornyn for trying to move the ball a bit by filing legislation on Tuesday that would grant DACA participants the ability to legally stay in the United States for three years during a transitional period.

Called the Security, Enforcement, and Compassion United in Reform Efforts (SECURE) Act, the legislation he filed jointly with Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and four other Senate Republicans, contains elements from several earlier immigration proposals, including Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin’s BRIDGE Act, which would protect DACA recipients from deportation.

We agree with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce which said this bill is “an effort to find a compassionate solution.” And we urge members of Congress to give it a hard look.

But, again, the timing of this bill should not be paired with the failed funding of the federal government in any way.

By putting Dreamers into the center of this national spending debate, they are being negatively leveraged into a no-win debate.

If the government shuts down, these youth will invariably be blamed and that will further feed the divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric plaguing our nation. It also could seriously hinder future immigration talks among members of Congress. Or “escalate the battle,” as Cornyn so rightly told us Wednesday.

So we urge that when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Speaker Paul Ryan go to the White House today, to hopefully work out a spending cap that will prevent the government from shutting down, that DACA participants won’t be held hostage in these important talks.

We also urge Congress to hold the DACA debate as a stand-alone in which members can exclusively discuss what to do with these youth who are educated and tax-paying members of society and how our nation can continue to benefit from their skills and allow them to pursue the American Dream.

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