NM lawmakers urge congressional action on DACA

By:  Scott Turner

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule early next year on the Trump administration’s decision to discontinue the seven-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

But the fate of DACA recipients may not just rest in the hands of the high court. President Donald Trump sent signals again last week that he might be willing to work with Congress on permanent protections for the recipients, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. His administration has in the past tried to tie the issue with the president’s desire to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján. (Morgan Lee/Associated Press)

But U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján told the Journal last week he is unaware of any recent overtures from the administration about working with Congress on the issue. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last Tuesday about the administration’s decision to discontinue the program.

“Two years ago, the Trump administration sent out signals that it would work with Congress to protect Dreamers and work on immigration reform,” the congressman said. “But there have been no overtures. And this week, the president sent out a tweet calling some DACA recipient criminals. In order to be eligible for DACA, you have to pass a comprehensive background check.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said now was the time for “real action – not just empty words” on offering protections for DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers.

“Republicans in Washington, including the president, have said they support a solution for Dreamers,” the senator said.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House passed the Dream and Promise Act, which would provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship and offer protections for other immigrants. Luján and fellow New Mexico Democratic Reps. Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small voted in favor of the legislation, which has yet to be taken up in the Senate.

“I’m very frustrated with Mitch McConnell,” Luján said of the Senate Majority Leader, a Republican from Kentucky. “It’s been more than 160 days since the House passed the Dream and Promise Act. Republicans support this. A majority of the Senate supports this. If this legislation hits the floor, it will pass.”

Udall echoed that frustration.

“For the last five months, House-passed legislation offering a path to citizenship for Dreamers has been buried in Majority Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard,” the senator said.

“When most of the country wants to protect Dreamers, Congress would be smart to act accordingly,” Torres Small said.

Udall said the Trump administration’s actions have put Dreamer’s lives in limbo. His colleague, Sen. Martin Heinrich, said the decision to terminate DACA “has forced Dreamers across the country to face a harsh uncertainty about their future.”

Luján fears the administration will plan more deportations should the court rule in its favor.

“They would do work authorizations and check Social Security numbers,” he said. “But I’m hopeful and optimistic the court will rule in favor of Dreamers.”

Heinrich reminded Dreamers they can still apply to renew their status as they wait for the court’s decision.

HAALAND REACHES OUT TO BARR: U.S. Attorney General William Barr joined a growing list of members of the Trump administration who have visited New Mexico in recent months when he held a news conference in Albuquerque last week to announce the conclusion of a three-month fugitive apprehension operation called Operation Triple Beam, which involved federal, state and local law enforcement.

Haaland urged Barr in a letter to sit down with stakeholder groups who are providing humanitarian support and legal assistance to asylum seekers, “so that you can better understand the damaging impact that your policies are having on human beings who are fleeing extreme violence, torture, and likely death.”

She wanted Barr to discuss a new policy to “fast-track” asylum cases through the Prompt Asylum Claim Review.

Her office cited reports the new system is limiting access to legal representation, fair review of asylum cases and proper oversight.