Senate Democrats

In an utter defeat following the government shutdown, Senate Democrats have abandoned tying legislation on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to government spending, surrendering any leverage they had.

In the wake of the shutdown, Democrats gained absolutely nothing, being not measurably in a different place Monday than they had been when the shutdown began on Friday. Wednesday night, they traded what little leverage they had.

Yet Democrats still expect a deal on DACA.

“Everyone’s first preference is to get it all done by the 8th,” a Democratic staffer told Politico. “We haven’t speculated on what happens if it doesn’t all come together.”

The attempt to add funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (which actually saves money) to the funding measure helped undermine Senate Democrats’ will to push a shutdown. The self-appointed “common sense caucus” resolved the shutdown without any meaningful gains on immigration reform.

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post explained why the shutdown was a tactical mistake for Democrats and was bound to produce no meaningful results. To that end, separation of the budget and DACA legislation might be an effort to not repeat the same mistakes.

But, without any real deadline or demand for reform, the sole hope for meaningful action on DACA and protection of Dreamers might now rest solely on President Trump who, Wednesday, made seemed to support a path to citizenship for Dreamers. On Thursday, the White House rolled out a plan to provide a path to citizenship to 1.8 million Dreamers, though it hinges on a $25 billion “trust fund” for Trump’s proposed border wall.

However, trusting in Trump at any given time is notoriously unreliable.

There are also a number of roadblocks remaining to reform on DACA. Most notably among these roadblocks is the border wall, which Trump has repeatedly linked to immigration reform, which a growing number of people are calling on Democrats to just give him in exchange for DACA despite it being exceedingly unpopular.

Ultimately, this points to a larger issue than Dreamers and DACA; it shows that Democrats have no desire to actually fight on issues. While most Americans support Dreamers and oppose the wall, Democrats have failed to make any headway on DACA reform and have gathered a movement calling for capitulation on the wall.

Democrats turned the moment they claimed leverage into a complete surrender with the shutdown, and are continuing to be as ineffective a force for political change as they’ve traditionally been.


Katelyn Kivel is a journalist and political scientist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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