DACA IN SPENDING BILL?: Top Republican and Democratic lawmakers will meet with White House officials on Capitol Hill today to discuss a deal to avoid a government shutdown later this month. Will DACA be part of the conversation? Perhaps not in a substantial way, according to POLITICO's Sarah Ferris and Jennifer Scholtes.
"Republicans are eager to separate a debate on Dreamers from the latest budget fight, with White House officials saying Tuesday that the meeting's focus will be on raising stiff budget caps for defense and domestic programs over the next two years - not on immigration," the pair report. "A senior congressional aide also said the meeting was called by the speaker's office, with the topic specifically focused on trying to reach a budget caps deal."
Democrats could force Republicans to grapple with DACA (since Republicans will need Democratic support to pass any spending bill). But it's not clear they will. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her Democratic colleagues Tuesday that said leadership is "firmly committed" to passage of the Dream Act, H.R. 3440 (115), but she didn't tie Dreamers to the spending bill.
Congressional leaders may instead look to a bipartisan Senate working group tackling DACA, POLITICO reports. The group, which includes Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), aims to combine protections for so-called "Dreamers" with border security measures and limits on legal immigration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to bring a stand-alone immigration bill to the floor by the end of January if the Senate negotiators and the White House reach an agreement.
If Democrats assent to a spending deal without DACA, that will disappoint pro-Dreamer groups, who view must-pass legislation as their best chance to secure legal protections. Adrian Reyna, membership director at the immigrant youth-led United We Dream, blasted Democrats for backing a stopgap spending bill passed in late December. "We build all this momentum to push the Republicans to make this an issue on the national stage, and then Democrats [say], 'Oh sorry, we don't have enough leverage," Reyna told Morning Shift. "They shouldn't be promising things to us if they're not going to fulfill [them]."
By one calculation, Dreamers are already losing their DACA protection at a rate of 851 each week (based on the 22,000 recipients who didn't renew by the administration's October deadline). DHS says it isn't targeting DREAMers for deportation, but a September White House talking points memo saidDREAMers should "use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States - including proactively seeking travel documentation - or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible."
Immigrant youth will rally today outside the California office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), with actors Alyssa Milano, Bradley Whitford, and America Ferrera in tow to urge Democrats to vote against any spending measure that lacks protections for Dreamers. Feinstein opposed the stopgap bill last month under pressure from immigration activists. The rally and press conference take place at 7 p.m. (4 p.m. PT). Read more from POLITICO's Ferris and Scholtes here .