Government Shutdown Aftermath: Implications and What’s Next for DACA

 Protesters unfurl a banner atop a crane at the construction site of the former Washington Post building on January 25, 2017.

Protesters unfurl a banner atop a crane at the construction site of the former Washington Post building on January 25, 2017.

Photo: Drew Angerer

Photo: Drew Angerer

Protesters unfurl a banner atop a crane at the construction site of the former Washington Post building on January 25, 2017.

The past weekend saw a significant amount of discord and politics, from the now annual Women’s March drawing thousands of protesters to various locations in the United States, to the government shutting down on January 20 — ironically also the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Photo: Drew Angerer
Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th U.S. President on January 20, 2017.

Nineteenth in history, the shutdown (in simplest terms) occurred due to Congress’s failure to pass new government-funding bills by midnight on January 19. The reality, however, is that the shutdown was a “boiling over” of a long-simmering dispute between Democrats and Republicans over the issue of immigration. Most democrats withheld their support from funding bills until they saw progress for the Obama-era DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) program, which has protected nearly 800,000 young adult unauthorized immigrants (and their families) from deportation and allowed them to work legally since 2012, and so Congress was unable to pass a new funding bill — hence the shutdown.

Since then, the government reopened on Monday (January 22) after President Trump signed a bill funding the government until February 8, and after Republicans — notably the personal pledge from Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — assured Democrats the Senate would soon consider legislation to protect illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders and insurance for vulnerable children,” said President Trump in a written statement.

While it seems a neat and tidy end to a concerning situation, the implications of Democrats “caving” — in the words of the President himself — and a lack of concrete confirmation for the situation of the DREAMers (those protected by DACA) have left many speculating about the true consequences of such a resolution.

Several senators, including Democrat Kamala Harris of California, remained unconvinced of the Republicans’ reassurances and voted against the bill that would reopen the government. Regarding such matter, Harris said, “I refuse to put the lives of nearly 700,00o young people in the hands of [those who have] repeatedly gone back on [their] word.”

Moreover, the Democrats’ lack of decisiveness in Monday’s reopening vote — sixteen voted against the funding bill — exposes a rift between “moderate” Democrats (representing states won by President Trump), and their more “liberal” counterparts.

Photo: Spencer Platt
Demonstrators in New York protest the lack of a deal on the DACA program, which was one of the issues at the heart of the shutdown.

Immigrants’ activists see the Democrats’ yielding as a loss of power against Republicans, and remain uncertain of the DACA program’s future. Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of an immigrants’ rights group entitled “America’s Voice,” said on Monday, “Last week, I was moved to tears of joy when Democrats stood up and fought for progressive values and for Dreamers. Today, I am moved to tears of disappointment and anger that democrats blinked.”

Progressive groups are now looking at how to get “back on offense” by making Dreamers an election-year issue and focusing on key Senate seats.

DACA’s future remains “in limbo,” but several Democrats have deferred to February 6 to possibly initiate a second shutdown if their demands are not met. As of now, the situation is little more than a waiting game.

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