Republicans and Democrats poised for yet another immigration duel

The White House

Less than three weeks after the first government shutdown in nearly five years, Washington is poised for yet another showdown over immigration and government funding.

Related: Theresa May rebukes Donald Trump over NHS comments

The three-week patchwork funding deal that ended the January shutdown is set to end on Thursday.

Protections for so-called Dreamers, children brought to the US illegally who have grown up in the country, are set to expire on 5 March.

Who are the Dreamers?

Dreamers are young immigrants who would qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (Daca) program, enacted under Barack Obama in 2012. Most people in the program entered the US as children and have lived in the US for years “undocumented”. Daca gave them temporary protection from deportation and work permits. Daca was only available to people younger than 31 on 15 June 2012, who arrived in the US before turning 16 and lived there continuously since June 2007. Most Dreamers are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the largest numbers live in California, Texas, Florida and New York. Donald Trump cancelled the program in September but has also said repeatedly he wants Congress to develop a program to “help” the population.

What will happen to the Dreamers?

Under the Trump administration, new applications under Daca will no longer be accepted. For those currently in the program, their legal status and other Daca-related permits (such as to work and attend college) will begin expiring in March 2018 – unless Congress passes legislation allowing a new channel for temporary or permanent legal immigration status – and Dreamers will all lose their status by March 2020.

Technically, as their statuses lapse they could be deported and sent back to countries many have no familiarity with. It is still unclear whether this would happen. Fear had been rising in the run-up to last week’s announcement. Those with work permits expiring between 5 September 2017 and 5 March 2018 will be allowed to apply for renewal by 5 October.

What does the recent ruling by Judge William Alsup mean?

In his ruling, Alsup ordered the Trump administration to restart the program, allowing Daca recipients who already qualify for the program to submit applications for renewal.

However, he said the federal government did not have to process new applications from people who had not previously received protection under the program.

When the Trump administration ended the Daca program, it allowed Daca recipients whose legal status expired on or before 5 March to renew their legal status. Roughly 22,000 recipients failed to successfully renew their legal status for various reasons.

Legal experts and immigration advocates are advising Daca recipients not to file for renewal until the administration provides more information about how it intends to comply with the ruling.

“These next days and weeks are going to create a lot of confusion on the legal front,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, which has filed a separate lawsuit against the Trump administration’s termination of Daca.

Republicans in the House have mooted a proposal to fund the government through 22 March. This has raised concern among Democrats, as it would keep the government open past the deadline for replacing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), the Obama-era policy protecting Dreamers that Trump rescinded last year.

Under the agreement that ended the January shutdown, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell pledged to allow the Senate to vote freely on immigration after 8 February, provided the government was not closed.

As part of efforts to reach a compromise, the Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons was set to introduce a bipartisan immigration bill with John McCain, an Arizona Republican, on Monday.

The bill is modeled on a proposal in the House, authored by Texas Republican Will Hurd and California Democrat Pete Aguilar, that would grant permanent legal status to Dreamers and increase border security.

Coons said on a conference call with reporters on Monday that he saw his proposal as “a strong bipartisan option” to advance the immigration debate.

He added that the bill does “not have robust investments for security” and instead requires a plan to be submitted to Congress for protecting the border. Coons noted that he would be “open to adding funding” as a potential compromise.

The bill was offered as a more limited compromise than broader proposals offered by Donald Trump and by another pair of senators, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.

Trump’s proposal, which offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers but also demands $25bn to build a wall on the border with Mexico, has been panned by Democrats.

Coons said his limited deal was an opportunity to create “a base ball” on immigration, allowing the Senate to move forward and “resolve all the unfinished work that is months past due”.

Any Senate immigration bill would face a difficult path in the House. In 2013, a bipartisan deal on comprehensive immigration reform passed the Senate 68-32. It never received a vote in the lower chamber, under then-speaker John Boehner.

Boehner’s successor, Paul Ryan, leads an even more fractious Republican caucus, in which some are even opposed to Trump’s relatively draconian proposal, because of it offers a path to citizenship.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Jacobs in Washington, for theguardian.com on Monday 5th February 2018 19.25 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010