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Here’s where we stand.

With a March 5 deadline approaching and another potential government shutdown looming, Congress is working to break through a deadlock on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Here’s everything you need to know about DACA and the effort to give “Dreamers” permanent legal status and end this fight for good.

What is DACA?

Donald Trump said he would 'revisit' DACA if Congress fails to act Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is an Obama-era executive order that established protections for immigrants who were brought to America by their parents when they were under 16. Beneficiaries of the program are allowed to apply for permits to stay in the country and, if granted, are protected from deportation for two-year intervals. Applicants are strictly vetted and must meet a set of requirements, such as having a high school degree.

DACA recipients are frequently referred to as “Dreamers,” in reference to the DREAM Act, a long-sought-after immigration reform bill.

In September 2017, President Donald Trump announced he was ending DACA, saying he wished for Congress to address the status of the roughly 800,000 people protected by the Obama-era order. With Trump’s announcement, DACA would no longer accept applications after March 5.

In January 2017, however, a U.S. District Court ruled that Trump must continue to accept DACA renewals as while other lawsuits around the decision play out.

The Trump administration is appealing that decision to the Supreme Court.

Now, Congress has just four days to fund the government after the deal reached by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in January expires. The last fight over government funding led to a shutdown, as Democrats held out for a deal on DACA. Whether they will allow the government to shut down again without a framework on DACA in place is unknown.

Schumer said, regardless, he was promised by McConnell that a vote on DACA would be held before it expires on March 5.

Is DACA unconstitutional? 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called DACA “unconstitutional,” but the matter is far from settled from a legal perspective. The Supreme Court ruled 4-4 in a case about the DACA in June 2016, and while an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit blocked DAPA and DACA expansion in late 2015, it did not do so on constitutional grounds. Legal scholars have argued that the president has the legal authority to allow certain groups of immigrants into the U.S. on a temporary basis, and a group of legal experts issued an open letter supporting DACA in 2017. (You can read more on whether DACA is unconstitutional here.)


DACA 2018 news

Sen. John McCain daca Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

On Feb. 5, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) unveiled a bipartisan immigration compromise on with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) Their deal promises increased security and upgrades along the U.S.-Mexico border but does not grant Trump the $25-30 billion he is seeking for construction of his border wall. In comparison to Trump’s plan, it’s more aggressive in offering protection for people in the United States, granting legal status to people who have been here since 2013—a group larger than the 1.8 million people Trump is offering to fight for, a proposal outlined in his State of the Union.

“Our legislation, which already has broad support in the House of Representatives, would address the most urgent priorities of protecting Dreamers, strengthening border security, alleviating the backlog in immigration courts, and addressing the root causes of illegal immigration,” said Senator McCain when introducing the bill.

The legislation is a companion to a bill introduced in the House that already has the support of 54 representatives, 27 Republicans and 27 Democrats. The Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act was introduced by Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).

“With the March deadline quickly approaching, it is more critical than ever that Congress come together to provide a legal path forward for Dreamers. The USA Act is a reasonable, bipartisan solution to ensure these young people may remain in the only home they know, the United States,” said Rep. David G. Valadao (R-Calif).

No vote or hearings on McCain-Coons have yet to be scheduled, but Coons said he was optimistic about their deal.

“I have been and remain very encouraged by the bipartisan negotiations toward an immigration compromise … and I plan to continue working with that group to try and find a way forward,” said Coons.

On Feb. 15, the so-called Common Sense Coalition reached an agreement that addressed DACA and immigration, including funding for a border security.

CNN obtained a draft copy of the Senate’s bill, which would offer a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and place $25 billion in a trust for border security. It would also reduce the number of green cards for adult children of green card holders and prevent parents from being sponsored by their children who become citizens through the new pathway created by the bill, according to the news outlet.

The president responded by moving the goalposts again.

What happens next for DACA?

The fight over DACA and government funding have been some of the most contentious since President Trump took office, and with both deadlines rapidly approaching, any proposed deal for DACA is likely to draw support but also bring about vocal criticism.

Trump has already preemptively called McCain-Coons a waste of time.

Outside the Capitol on Feb. 6, Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly said that he doubted the president would extend the DACA deadline if a deal wasn’t reached.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

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