Read about how Pat Harris wants Democrats to go on the offensive; to be bold and go beyond just saving the DACA program and instead to provide a pathway to citizenship for the 800,000 DREAMers currently enrolled in the program. Democrats have a tremendous chance to strike a blow for basic human decency.
One of the most oft-repeated phrases in military operations, corporate boardrooms and football locker rooms is that “the best defense is a good offense.” The Democrats in Congress would do well to heed this saying and to use the opportunity to not just save DACA, but to go on the offensive; to be bold and go beyond just saving the DACA program and instead to provide a pathway to citizenship for the 800,000 DREAMers currently enrolled in the program.
Donald Trump’s repeal of the DACA program presents the Democratic Party with one of the great political opportunities of the past forty years. More importantly, it provides Democrats with a tremendous chance to strike a blow for basic human decency.
This is not the time to be talking about compromise – this is a time to fight! Already we have seen Democrats talking about negotiating an agreement whereby DACA is restored, with some restrictions, in return for increased border security and the hiring of additional border agents (both failed past policies). There has even been a suggestion that the program will be restored in return for funding for Trump’s wall.
Other Democrats, including U.S. Senator from California Dianne Feinstein, have even taken the Trump administration’s position, that the DACA program was on shaky legal ground anyway, apparently a justification for throwing out the entire program. This is the wrong approach for Democrats, albeit a sadly predictable one.
Instead, let’s take Trump’s DACA calamity and seize the chance to do something bold, something courageous, something that is actually the right thing to do! In July of this year, the Dream Act of 2017 was re-introduced in the U.S. Senate. The bill would provide a direct road to citizenship for people who are undocumented and have DACA or temporary protected status (TPS).
Already, two Republican U.S. Senators, Jeff Flake (AZ) and Lindsey Graham (SC) have signed on as co-sponsors. In addition, a Morning Consulting poll taken this past April shows that 78% of registered voters said Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the country and 56% of registered voters supported a path to citizenship for the Dreamers.
Most Americans understand the incredible contribution that undocumented workers make to this country. A remarkable 40% of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. were started by first generation immigrants or the children of those immigrants. It is estimated that the Dreamers alone will pump over $300 billion into the U.S. economy over the next decade.
If the Democratic Party, with both the political and moral advantage, squanders this opportunity and instead agrees to a watered-down version of the current DACA program, then we are saying that the very essence of what the Democratic party is supposedly based upon, to fight for those who need help the most, is nothing more than a relic of a bygone era.
Democrats need to adopt the Republican strategy of the early Obama years when the Republicans were in the minority. Republicans would introduce legislation that they knew would be controversial and appeal to their base, force the Democrats to take a contrary position and then shove it down their throats at election time.
Democrats should be just as aggressive. This is a crisis for millions of people in this country and we need to treat it like a crisis. Make U.S. Senator Dean Heller of Nevada go on record as opposing a pathway to citizenship. Likewise for Republican Congressmen Darrel Issa, Dana Rohrabacher, Ken Calvert and Jeff Denham all of whom face tough re-election races in districts with large, activist Hispanic voting blocs. Either they support the pathway to citizenship for DREAMers or they will face a very engaged electorate who will make them answer for that vote.
The Democratic Party needs to recognize that we are facing a Prop 187 moment. In 1994, Republican California governor Pete Wilson ran on a re-election platform that included Proposition 187, a ballot measure that prevented undocumented immigrants from receiving non-emergency services. The proposition passed with 58% of the vote.
But the Republican victory was short-lived. Latinos seethed for years in California at being singled out and used as an excuse for California’s problems. Prop 187 became a rallying cry in many immigrant communities and as their voting population increased, the number of Republican elected officials dramatically decreased. That was no coincidence.
This is not a time for concessions. It is a time to take the offensive, not just for political reasons but to restore basic human decency to our immigration policies.
A Greek warrior once stated, “Compromise is only in the vocabulary of those without a will to fight.” There may be times when compromise is an option but this is not one of those times – this is a time to fight! Congress has the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of millions of Americans but only if they realize the unique historical opportunity in front of them.
Remember, the best defense is indeed a great offense.