Prospects For A DACA Deal Looking Grim

The prospects for a deal in Congress on DACA are starting to look grim.

It was just a week ago that Senate Democrats made a deal to end the three-day government shutdown that includes an agreement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring a bill to extend protection to the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for keeping the government open through at least February 8th. While it does look like such a bill will get before the Senate soon, it’s quickly becoming apparent that it may not be possible to reach a deal on a DACA bill that the House will approve and which the Senate will sign into law:

After months of rhetoric and negotiations on immigration with the parties barely any closer to each other, the reality is beginning to dawn that there may be no deal to be had.

Stakeholders working toward a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, likely including border security, are not giving up hope. But the White House’s and some Republicans’ insistence on adding new restrictions to legal immigration and the left’s opposition could be an insurmountable gap.

The White House on Thursday released its proposed framework for a deal on DACA, a program that protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children that President Donald Trump is terminating as of March 5 but pushing lawmakers to replace.

The proposal did have some concessions to Democrats, including a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, but also included aggressive cuts to legal immigration and a push for enhanced enforcement powers, along with upwards of $25 billion for a wall and other border security. The framework also ends family migration beyond spouses and minor children and abolishes the diversity visa lottery.

The proposal was panned by the left and the right. Groups who support restricting immigration slammed it as “amnesty.” Democratic lawmakers and immigration advocates rejected it as a “massive, cruel and family-punishing overhaul of our current legal immigration system,” as New Jersey’s Sen. Bob Menendez phrased it.

The framework, plus Trump’s earlier rejection of an offer from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to authorize upwards of $20 billion for a wall and a vulgar rejection of a bipartisan proposal from the Senate “Gang of Six,” could mean that the only option left is a temporary extension of DACA with no future certainty. Some lawmakers have even started mentioning the latter option.

>For now a permanent solution for DACA is “dead,” said Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney who led immigration negotiations for Schumer in 2013.

“Thursday pretty much lined it up as the final verdict,” Fresco said. “When Trump proposed something that in orthodoxy was not possible in the Democrat world and got criticized by the right, that was the end of the deal, because how can Trump agree to something more liberal now? … For both sides, the deal is completely unacceptable, so that’s what makes this very complicated.”


Advocacy groups who have been a constant presence on the left pushing for a deal have been disheartened by the lack of success even when they have accepted some concessions.

According to two sources familiar with a meeting of the groups last week, the mood among the pro-immigrant base — even before the White House proposal — was to be in a “fighting mode,” especially after the rejections of proposals they had thought were compromises.

The only acceptable option from here out, the consensus was, is a clean DACA-border security trade, and there was resolve to make clear to lawmakers and key players that groups will reject any deal that tries to include aggressive immigration measures in exchange for DACA.

Fresco said there was a “miscalculation” by those on the right that Democrats would swallow changes to the legal migration system in this deal because they had passed previously in broader, comprehensive negotiations.

But without all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants being legalized, he said, it’s not on the table.

“There’s nothing about what the Republicans are seeking that can’t be obtained in a comprehensive deal,” Fresco said. “They can get everything they want, they just have to accept that everybody who’s here gets to stay. That’s the price of admission.”

As I said from the start, the path to a DACA deal is not going to be an easy one, and the possibility of failure remains high. Getting a deal through the Senate, for example, would require the support of sixty Senators. Assuming that the entire Democratic caucus and the two Independents that vote with them support the bill, that would require the support of at least eleven Republicans. Preferably, the bill would pass by a much higher number than that in order to put as much pressure as possible on a House of Representatives that will likely be far more difficult to convince than the Senate might be. On paper at least, a deal most likely to get that level of support in the Senate would include extending protection to existing DACA beneficiaries, and perhaps a wider population such as that contemplated by the proposal that the White House put out last week, in exchange for some level of funding for Trump’s border wall. This appears to basically be the deal that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer thought he had struck with President Trump prior to the shutdown only to have the rug pulled out from under him hours later. In the Trump/Schumer negotiations, the amount of funding for the wall was roughly $15 billion, but the White House now appears to be demanding as much as $25 billion for the wall. While Schumer did say last week that the offer he made to Trump was off the table, it seems likely he’d be willing to put it back on if it would lead to a successful vote benefiting the DACA beneficiaries. Whatever the amount, though, it seems clear that this is the kind of deal that could make it through the Senate and while Trump’s wall is an idiotic idea and a boondoggle, it seems like a small price to pay for getting relief for DACA beneficiaries.

Even if such a bill passes the Senate, though, it faces an uncertain future in the House. House Republicans have made it clear that they want a DACA deal that includes far more than what could make it through the Senate. This would include provisions addressing so-called chain migration and an end to the visa lottery, which is essentially what the White House is apparently proposing. Even with these provisions, though, it’s not at all clear that the bill would get the support from House Republicans that it would need to pass, and the more that gets added to the bill the less likely it is that Democrats would support it. It’s because of all of this that the prospects for a DACA deal before the ostensible March 5th deadline after which the program would expire are appearing to become thin.

If there is a path forward, it’s looking to be a very narrow one:

One remaining option that looks increasingly likely is for Congress to pair a temporary extension of DACA with government funding, perhaps with some border security, and punt a longer-term deal into an indefinite future

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told reporters January 8 that if a deal can’t be reached, lawmakers would find another way, according to Roll Call.

“We’ll probably extend the DREAM Act kids, the DACA kids, for a year,” Graham said.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, told reporters last week that a deal will be “temporary for temporary, permanent for permanent” — meaning if Democrats can’t agree to massive border security, the DACA deal won’t be permanent, either.

“If you want an annual appropriation then I think you’ll get a one-year extension of the DACA status,” Cornyn said.
Frank Sharry, an advocate with America’s Voice Education Fund who has spent decades negotiating immigration in Washington, said he’s not giving up hope — yet. But he acknowledged that on immigration there’s a “sweet spot” that seemed pretty close to the “Gang of Six” bill the White House rejected.

“I’m not prepared to declare this dead at all, because we’re far from dead,” Sharry said. “When the White House realizes this is going nowhere and Republican leadership is going to be left holding the bag, they may say, ‘Let’s do something narrow and do it quick.’ And it’ll be border security and a DACA fix.”

A temporary solution would only kick the can down the road, of course, but it may be enough to get through both chambers of Congress.

All of this is happening, of course, with yet another Federal Government shutdown hanging over the heads of Congress if they don’t get a spending bill passed by midnight on February 8th. While Democrats in the Senate have already begun saying that they won’t hold a spending bill hostage to the successful passage of a DACA deal, they may be pressured to do just that from within their own party. The ink was barely dry on the deal that ended the shutdown last Monday before Schumer and other Senate Democrats started getting blowback from within their own party over what was perceived by some to be a cave in on their part. If it starts to become clear between now and then that getting to a deal on DACA isn’t going to be as simple a some may have thought, then pressure could grow to use what essentially amounts to the only bargaining chip the Democrats have to force the issue. Given the fact that Senate Majority Leader McConnell has made clear that his agreement to move forward on a DACA bill is contingent on keeping the government open, however, it seems unlikely that tactic would be any more successful next month than it was this month.

Perhaps President Trump will address this issue further in his State Of The Union address tomorrow night, but as things stand now the prospects for a DACA deal are not looking good even if we take everyone at their word that they want to get a bill passed.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mister Bluster says:

    …it’s quickly becoming apparent that it may not be possible to reach a deal on a DACA bill that the House will approve and which the Senate will sign into law:

    This must be a provision of Article XII, USCon.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Trump could quite easily just re-issue Obama’s executive order. Easy peasy.

    Instead things are going to get very nasty on immigration. It would really help if Democrats had a plan. It would help even more if Republicans weren’t racist scum.

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    The Democrats were ready to make a deal for the wall, which is nothing more than a billion dollar scam. The GOP and Trump blinked. What they are offering now is racist garbage designed to blow the deal up. They control all three branches of government and they can’t make a deal. The Dems should be attaching DACA straight up to the budget negotiation. No wall, no talking, no sitting down again. These people had their shot and if the GOP wants to take the government down in order to appease their white supremacists and nobody else, let them.

  4. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Just wait…the Dems will fold, on DACA, like cheap furniture.

  5. Anonne says:

    Again, they won’t take yes for an answer, just like the “Grand Bargain.” It’s always “you must submit” for Republicans. If they were serious about a bipartisan plan, they would get one that could have enough votes to override a veto. But they aren’t going there.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Republicans are the embodiment of male insecurity. Beneath all the hillbilly elegy, econo-political, cultural panic stuff is the psychology. Most people – and a disproportionate number of men – are foot soldiers. They crave order and discipline. They like being told what to do. They believe that if they follow orders long enough they will be rewarded with the power to order other people around. And somehow that’s a ‘win.’

    People live unexamined lives. They don’t really know why they do anything, their explanations are generally ex-post facto rationalizations. We then have to read the tea leaves and look at the psychopathology indicated by their more visible preferences. My sense is, and has been for some time, that we are having a crisis of masculinity. I remember discussing this with my wife like 30 years ago, as I was observing the steady erosion of ‘male only’ roles. Sooner or later (way later than I’d have guessed) men were going to start figuring out that there was no longer a single, uniquely male function aside from sperm production.

    Didn’t bother me then, doesn’t bother me now. I outgrew the ‘must prove myself as a manly man’ phase about six seconds after cops ratcheted the handcuffs onto my wrists. But a man who was raised on John Wayne or later, Clint Eastwood, or later still Schwarzenegger, and finds himself in a cubicle job of no distinction, with a wife who may well out-earn him, and kids who’ve never even heard of the idea of ‘deference,’ let alone deference to a man simply because he owns a penis, may long to march and shout and threaten people. He craves the Stern Daddy who will form him into part of something larger, a militant mass, give them special clothing to wear (MAGA hats) and point the finger of blame at anyone who is other.

    What makes this tragi-comic is that Trump isn’t a Stern Father, he’s a weak, needy, insecure man, a terrified crook frantically trying to avoid the law. And guess what? The culture marches on, shrugging off these clowns whose impotence is driven home to them on a daily basis. They become ever more defensive, some turn to violence, they deny reality and retreat into fantasy. The picture of that is Gamergate: boys playing war online don’t want to let the girls play. Waaah. Because this is still 3rd grade.

    There is no solution but for men to grow the fwck up.

  7. Mister Bluster says:

    There is no solution but for men to grow the fwck up.

  8. Tyrell says:

    Congress should have dealt with this stuff long ago, back in the early ’90’s.
    Here are some baseline starting points:
    Thorough background checks. No felony convictions. No drug abuse. No gang affiliation. That is for starters. Once they pass that hurdle, some sort of indemnification – tax plan needs to be set up. This would go to help the local governments work with immigrants in terms of second language, job training, and schools.
    Once they clear all that and are accepted, then monitoring with evaluations every two years. Any problems and the deal is revoked.
    Now there you have it.

  9. Lynn says:

    @Tyrell: “Thorough background checks. No felony convictions. No drug abuse. No gang affiliation. That is for starters. Once they pass that hurdle, some sort of indemnification – tax plan needs to be set up. This would go to help the local governments work with immigrants in terms of second language, job training, and schools.”

    You realize, I’m sure, that in order to participate in DACA, one must already have met those requirements and more.

    1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
    2. Came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday;
    3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
    4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
    5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or their lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
    6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
    7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

  10. Gustopher says:

    The last budget showdown took one of the Republican held hostages off the table — CHIP is funded for 6 years. I’m ok with that, and look forward to the next budget showdown.

    So long as the Democrats get something each time, they can cave on the budget shutdowns over and over.

  11. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @michael reynolds: Trump could quite easily just re-issue Obama’s executive order. Easy peasy.

    Except, of course, Obama didn’t issue an Executive Order.

    The amusing thing here is that the Democrats are acting like they are in a position of power. They aren’t, and the Republicans know it.

    Trump put forward an offer. That’s an invitation to negotiate, and the Democrats are refusing to negotiate. The alternative is a return to status quo — but it’s the pre-DACA status quo, when the existing laws on the books are enforced.

    Obama’s actions regarding DACA weren’t law, and they weren’t even an Executive Order. They were a policy decision at the agency level, and the people in charge of the agency (and above them) have changed. When people change, policy changes.

    I also find this amusing:

    Getting a deal through the Senate, for example, would require the support of sixty Senators. Assuming that the entire Democratic caucus and the two Independents that vote with them support the bill, that would require the support of at least eleven Republicans.

    Another way of reaching 60 would be all the Republicans, plus 9 Democrats or independents. Statistically, that would be more likely — 9 defectors vs. 11. The only way the 11 aisle-crossers scenario makes more sense is if you buy into one or two assumptions:

    1) The Democrats are far more likely to march in lockstep and follow their leadership mindlessly, without any expression of independence.

    2) The final deal will be primarily in line with the desires of the Democrats, with a few sops thrown out to peel off 11 Republicans. And such a deal so much more favorable to the Democrats will actually pass the House (where the Republicans have a much stronger position) and be signed by Trump.

    The Democrats should prioritize what they want of the deal and focus on getting that, while also prioritizing what they don’t want and focus on getting that out of the deal. Because getting no deal is even more of a loser for them than almost any deal they could work with Trump (who prides himself on being a deal-maker).

    Let me repeat that: Trump prides himself as a deal-maker. Use that and get the best deal you can. Because the alternative — the pre-DACA status quo, existing laws being enforced — does no one any favors.

  12. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    OTOH, kicking the can down the road is as American (and great) as apple pie (also great). We’ve been kicking the can down the road on immigration, deficit spending, re-prioritizing defense spending, balancing the budget, and other assorted decisions for 20-some odd years, and frankly, I think longer than that, most of this stuff was issues when I started university in 1970. Part of kicking has involved the problem that these are complicated problems (or that citizens–both in Congress and the great unwashed public–want to believe they are complicated). Kicking the can is also a suitable way of getting the problem out of the sight of the public. If Congress give immigration a good hard kick, they can get it to bounce right past November and only the true racists and bigots and citizens with actual skin in the game will remember that it’s even a problem.

    Now, I do admit that an effective kick of the can down the road will involve getting Trump to STFU about DACA and Dreamers and Mexico isn’t sending us their best and a lot of other crap that he likes to bloviate about so that he can keep his racist/bigot street cred, but the point is that the can needs to be kicked, it needs to be kicked sooner rather than later, and if it’s not kicked, the Congress will have difficulty kicking the “we haven’t actually written a budget for the nation since Cracker here moved to Korea over a decade ago” can down the road again. It’s time to bring in the big toes for these two can kicking jobs. America is depending on it!


  13. John430 says:

    @michael reynolds: …things are going to get very nasty on immigration. It would really help if Democrats had a plan. It would help even more if Republicans weren’t racist scum.

    Yeah; like Bill Clinton’s SOTU speech in 1995 where he says…”All Americans, not only in the States most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes,…”

    Senator Schumer — who is the lead Democrat of the bipartisan “gang of eight” tackling immigration reform — said during a January 2013 press conference that the bipartisan coalition’s proposal “will never put these people on a path to citizenship until we have secured the border.”
    In 2010, Schumer also wrote and helped pass the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, which appropriated more than $600 million toward border security reinforcement. Schumer also pushed for national identification cards, which would prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants. Schumer called the measure, “the nub of solving the immigration dilemma politically speaking.”
    “If you say they can’t get a job when they come here, you’ll stop [illegal immigration],” Schumer told Wall Street Journal in a 2010 interview.

    Dunno why Democrats are such misogynous, racist pigs. Do you?