WASHINGTON (TNS) — With prospects dimming for a deal this year to prevent young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, sympathetic groups are planning to push hard over the next few weeks to force the issue back to the top of Washington's agenda.
Activists see their December bid as their last, best shot to save about 800,000 young immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program from being deported.
They face a tough challenge, with the White House distracted by tax legislation and Congress reluctant to act quickly to save the program.
Calling it illegal, the administration announced in September that DACA would be terminated after six months to give Congress time to pass a legislative fix that might allow the young immigrants here illegally to stay in the only country many of them have ever known.
The new initiatives to save DACA starts this week, when caravans of the young immigrants will start arriving in Washington. Activists are planning rallies in front of the White House, sit-ins on Capitol Hill and, possibly, other acts of civil disobedience.
"People are throwing everything at the wall because they see this as the moment," said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, which is working with Republicans and Democrats who support protecting DACA beneficiaries.
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Businesses will set up a "war room" Dec. 6 inside the Capitol where Republican and Democratic supporters can conduct interviews with national and local reporters.
The room will include video monitors of interactive maps with data from all 435 congressional districts and live feeds to coordinated rallies in dozens of cities across the country.
Senate Republicans such as Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who have introduced bills to protect the immigrants, have recorded videos in support of the effort.
The Partnership for a New American Economy also plans a series of national digital ads to draw attention to the effort to support the DACA beneficiaries.
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The efforts face significant barriers.
The White House is focused on changing the tax code and signaled last week that its immigration priorities do not include DACA until after the U.S.-Mexican border is secure.
"The president has made clear any immigration reform must first deliver for American citizens and workers. His priorities are securing the border with a wall, closing legal loopholes that enable illegal entry, interior enforcement and combating visa overstays, and ending chain migration," said deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.
While some DACA beneficiaries were allowed one more extension, those whose protection expires after March 5 will lose their work permits and could be deported.
After an initial uproar, momentum has slowed since Trump backed away from a tentative deal with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California in September.
Pelosi has since threatened that Democrats could withhold support from must-pass spending bills. At a Nov. 9 press briefing, the San Francisco Democrat promised that "we will not leave here without the DREAM Act passing with a DACA fix." Congress has until Dec. 8 to pass legislation to fund the government.
But even Democrats concede that the DREAM act is not at the top of their to-do list at the moment. Negotiations with Republicans are focused on establishing new budget caps, a necessary precursor to a spending agreement.
House Republican leaders are comfortable letting the issue roll into 2018. The party's top priorities are tax reform, spending legislation and disaster aid to pay for hurricane recovery efforts in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, and for wildfire recovery in California.