Clarke blames Trump for DACA crisis

Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y. speaks to supporters at a Community Town Hall in Brooklyn. New York.
Associated Press / Frank Franklin II, file

As the United States Senate on Thursday summarily blocked three measures — including one backed by President Donald J. Trump — to resolve the fate of the so-called Caribbean and other “Dreamers,” leaving hundreds of thousands of them facing an uncertain future, Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has blamed the crisis squarely on the president.

“In September, Donald Trump created a crisis by ending DACA [Deferred Acton for Childhood Arrivals],” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life on Saturday. “He then called on Congress to work together to solve it.”

But Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, said Trump “continues to torpedo bipartisan deal after bipartisan deal, while offering an immigration framework that is cruel, vindictive and heartless.

“Over 100 Dreamers are deported daily, and we are quickly approaching the March 5th deadline,” she said. “If Donald Trump cannot lead, he must get out of the way and let the Congress do its job in a bipartisan fashion,” and save DACA.”

March 5 is the day that Trump has set the DACA program to expire. The program protects about 690,000 Caribbean and other Dreamers from deportation and allows them to work, study or join the military. But Trump rescinded DACA, leaving it to Congress to find a replacement.

After the week began with the promise of an extraordinarily open, free-ranging debate on immigration, senators on Thursday struck down measure after measure, leaving into question whether any solution on the Dreamers can be reached.

In a rebuke to Trump, senators voted overwhelmingly, 39 to 60, against the White House-backed bill, which would have committed US$25 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico, placed strict limits on legal immigration, ended the diversity visa lottery and offered 1.8 million Dreamers an eventual path to citizenship.

Senators were 21 votes short of the 60 required to open debate, with the rejection of the president’s plan bipartisan: Democrats refused its get-tough approach to legal immigration, while many conservative Republicans derided it as amnesty, according to the New York Times.

Before the vote on Trump’s plan, senators rejected two bipartisan measures, including one written by Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, and another drafted by a broad bipartisan group of centrists calling themselves the Common Sense Coalition.

The votes were a stark reminder that the US Congress remains paralyzed by the immigration issue, the Times said, stating that former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both tried to overhaul the system, but were stymied by lawmakers “frozen into inaction, in part because of powerful interests on both sides.”

The estimated 690,000 young, undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants have been protected from deportation, until March 5, by DACA, and another 1.1 million would be eligible.

The White House had worked vigorously to oppose the centrist bill, which the Department of Homeland Security labeled “a mass amnesty for over 10 million illegal aliens [immigrants].” Senators of both parties said afterward that the Trump administration was instrumental in its defeat, according to the Times.

“I don’t think the president helped very much, but the bottom line is the demagogues won again on the left and the right,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a key sponsor of the Senate measure.

Still some Dreamers, many of whom have known no country other than the United States, are hopeful that the judicial system will protect them, the Times said.

Two federal courts have issued injunctions ordering the Trump administration to keep DACA in place for those already receiving its protections, but the US Justice Department has asked the US Supreme Court to intervene and overturn lower court rulings.

Thursday’s votes came after Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, had set aside the week for senators to try to write a bill from scratch.

Some senators said it was possible that lawmakers would attach an immigration bill to a catchall spending measure that must pass by March 23, when funding for the federal government expires, according to the Times.

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