Congress can’t decide how to handle this hot potato that divides Republicans nationally. But a new poll shows that seven of every 10 Utahns now favor allowing undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to remain here.
Debate about those “Dreamers” also is among the loudest controversies in Utah’s only close major race, between Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love and Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
McAdams says Love is all talk and no action on defending Dreamers, including perhaps claiming more credit than deserved about proposals to address the issue. Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, says McAdams does nothing but point and blame — plus she now has a major Democrat in Congress calling her a true leader on the issue.
President Donald Trump announced last year that he would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) started by Barack Obama, unless Congress enacted a solution by March 5. Congress has been unable to agree on a bill, but courts have blocked ending DACA for now.
A new Salt Lake Tribune/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that 71 percent of registered voters statewide support allowing DACA participants to remain in the country, while 20 percent are opposed and 8 percent don’t know.
Even Utah Republicans favor ‘Dreamers’ staying by 69 percent to 25 percent; Democrats do by a wider 87-10 margin; and unaffiliated voters support it by a 78-17 split.
Despite that wide support, as Love says, “I am the only member of the [Utah congressional] delegation who has been pushing for passage” of bills to allow Dreamers a pathway to citizenship, and to help Haitian refugees retain Temporary Protected Status that Trump is trying to remove.
She has tweeted that she is among the top leaders defending Dreamers.
“I have been at the forefront of pushing for action” on immigration reform,” one said. About a bill to stop separating families at the border, she tweeted, “I got these changes in the compromise bill that’s up for a vote tomorrow.”
But Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., also tweeted that he was “proud to have personally authored language in the newly introduced immigration consensus bill to stop the separation of families.”
McAdams has been steadily attacking Love for what he sees as a stream of self-promotion in immigration debates while nothing passes.
She “made one symbolic gesture on immigration and then retreated,” he tweeted last week after House votes failed but she gave a speech seeking support. “Only in Washington is failing to accomplish your goal a success. I solve problems by sitting down with people of both parties and I won’t stop until we get something done.”
Earlier he tweeted, “Rep. Love is all talk and no action. She knows Utahns disapprove of her past efforts to separate families and deport DREAMers [by such things as voting earlier to block funding for Obama immigration orders] and is desperately trying to cover her tracks during a competitive campaign.”
As deadlines approached to sign a “discharge petition” — signed by Love — to bring a bipartisan immigration bill to the House floor for a vote that was blocked by GOP leaders, McAdams complained Love wasn’t trying to round up more support but was in Utah at a fundraiser featuring House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Instead of fighting to get support for the discharge petition in its final hour — ensuring a vote on multiple immigration bills — Rep. Love chose to fundraise with Spkr Ryan — giving power back to the DC political bosses she wants Utahns to believe she doesn’t answer to,” he tweeted.
In an interview Monday, Love fired back at McAdams.
“He’s like one of those dads who points out that the diaper is dirty, but will never do anything to clean it up,” she said. “That’s the only thing he’s good at: pointing fingers and blaming.”
She noted she was the only one in the Utah delegation to sign the discharge petition. Also, “I called out the president when he went after countries [and immigrants from them] that he believed were less desirable,” and immigrants from them, she said, referring to Trump’s notorious “s---hole countries” comment aimed at Africa and Haiti.
She added, “I have been fighting on this [immigration and Dreamers] issue for a very long time…. It’s probably the wrong battle that he’s picked with me because I didn’t need Ben to show up in a race to remind me that I am a daughter of immigrants.”
Love suggested calling Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, whom she said would back up that Love is not taking any false credit, and is a longtime leader on immigration. Fudge did that.
“No question she has been a leader,” Fudge said about Love on Monday. “She has been a leader from the beginning. On the discharge petition, she was one of the leaders. She spoke very forcefully about it on the House floor.”
Fudge added, “From the time I first met Mia when she came to Congress, I cannot remember a time she did not deal with immigration…. She talked about pathway to citizenship before it really got hot in the last six or eight months. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t important to her.”
Andrew Roberts, McAdams’ campaign manager, downplayed those comments. He said failure to pass immigration reform is a “failure by Representative Love and a failure by Congress,” so “it is no surprise that one do-nothing member of Congress is coming to the defense of another do-nothing member of a Congress in chaos.”
About Love saying McAdams only casts blame, Roberts said McAdams “was a drafter and original signer of the Utah Compact, which was supported by the LDS Church and set the tone for immigration bills on the state level. It also called on Congress to pursue compassionate immigration reform.”
After Love complained that McAdams has not said how he would have voted on the House immigration bills, Roberts said, “Mayor McAdams would have seen the discharge petition through and voted in favor of the bipartisan DREAM Act instead of giving into party bosses and abandoning all hope of a bipartisan compromise.”
Roberts added that Love’s “failure here is inexcusable. Utahns are fed up with Love, along with Republicans and Democrats like her, working harder to promote themselves than find solutions…. It’s time to send a proven problem-solver to Congress.”
The new poll interviewed 654 registered voters statewide from June 11-18. It has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.