President Donald Trump has tasked Congress with finding a solution for the Dreamers in the next six months. If Congress can’t, presumably the 800,000 children of illegal immigrants who’ve registered with the government will be open to deportation beginning in March, including more than 3,000 youngsters in Idaho.
The clock is ticking, and it’s time for Idaho’s Republican leaders to step up.
But please don’t consider us cynical for having doubts they’ll get much done. So far, Republicans under the Trump administration have been unable to pass a single piece of significant legislation, despite controlling both houses of Congress.
Even Idaho’s congressional delegation is divided these days. The state’s two senators split their votes last week over a package deal for debt-ceiling relief and hurricane-recovery funding, with Mike Crapo approving the deal and James Risch against it.
Rep. Mike Simpson probably has the best common-sense approach to immigration: Allow those who are here already to legalize their residence, to stay and work, but without a special path to full citizenship. But Simpson hasn’t historically been a major player in the party’s immigration platform.
Rep. Raul Labrador has. He is chairman of the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee. And as the Lewiston Tribune reminded readers last week, Labrador has made solving immigration the centerpiece of his work in Washington.
“This is what I came to Congress to work on, is to modernize and fix the broken immigration system,” Labrador told reporters when he launched his gubernatorial campaign. “This is a golden opportunity for me to do this while I’m also running for governor. I can walk and chew gum, I think I’ve shown that, at the same time.”
Problem is, Labrador is a hardliner on immigration, and the Dreamer situation calls for a moderate compromise.
Call it amnesty — call it whatever you want — but clearly the nation is in support of protecting these youngsters. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted last week found only 15 percent of Americans want the Dreamers deported. In the same poll, even two-thirds of those who said they voted for Trump want the Dreamers to stay.
Dreamers were brought to the country illegally by their parents, but most are Americans in every sense except on paper. The so-called DACA program created by President Obama allows them to stay in this country if they go to school, work, stay out of trouble, pay a fee and keep registered with the government, among other requirements.
These are not bad hombres. They’re kids who’ve grown up in the Magic Valley. They’re studying at the College of Southern Idaho. They’re working at local businesses.
Republicans must decide if they’re going to solve the Dreamers problem through narrow legislation that addresses DACA only, or through a larger, comprehensive immigration reform package.
Will they try to solve the smaller problem or shoot for the moon?
We suspect a smaller DACA solution has the best chance at passing, and it has the most consensus from the constituency. Idaho’s congressional delegation may not know what voters collectively want in a full-on immigration reform deal, but they sure as heck know that Idahoans want Dreamers to stay.
They should listen to their constituents and quickly develop legislation to reflect that.