Divided Democrats face liberal backlash on immigration
WASHINGTON (AP) — With a new deadline fast approaching, Democrats in Congress are struggling to adopt a unified strategy to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
Their inaction has enraged liberal activists across the country, who have shifted their anger in recent days from Republicans who control Congress to Democrats seeking to balance their commitment to a progressive priority with their desire to avoid an explosive government shutdown heading into the 2018 midterm elections.
Liberal groups with millions of members, like MoveOn, are threatening primary election challenges later this year against Democrats who don't fight hard enough for so-called "Dreamers." Meanwhile, the liberal organization CREDO is pledging to block campaign cash from uncooperative Democrats, and the pro-immigration United We Dream is preparing a new wave of camera-friendly protests at the Capitol and outside congressional Democrats' offices nationwide.
"The unity and trust between the grassroots and elected Democrats is rapidly eroding. It could turn ugly if this goes on any further," said Ben Wikler, MoveOn's Washington director.
At issue is President Donald Trump's decision to rescind an Obama-era executive order that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gave protected status to about 800,000 immigrants in the United States illegally. Popularly known as "Dreamers," many were brought here as infants or children and have known no other country except the U.S.
In scrapping the order, Trump gave Congress until March to come up with a legislative solution. Pro-immigrant groups report that an estimated 851 immigrants are losing DACA protections each week as Congress struggles to find a permanent solution.
As Republicans resist a stand-alone bill to provide legal status to the young immigrants unless it includes funding for Trump's border wall, liberal groups want Democrats to use what leverage they have to force immigrant protections into government spending legislation that must be passed by Jan. 19 – even if that triggers a government shutdown.
Democrats are far from united on whether they should go that far, however.