Tribune Editorial: Congress will lose support if it doesn't legislate DACA soon

Demonstrators rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) during a rally outside of the Capitol Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Washington, on second day of the federal shutdown. Democrats have been seeking a deal to protect the "Dreamers," who have been shielded against deportation by DACA, which President Donald Trump halted last year. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

To no one’s surprise, a recent poll found that most Utahns support some kind of legal status for “Dreamers” – immigrants who enjoyed legal status via the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In Utah, that’s more than 10,500 Dreamers over the past five years who know no other home.

The DACA program deferred deportation of persons who were brought to the United States as children under the age of 16, who met other requirements. In September, President Trump announced he would rescind the executively ordered DACA program in a move to spur Congress into legislating a solution. Trump granted a six-month delay to the program’s termination. Only 24 percent of DACA recipients will be able to renew their permits before the program is shuttered. The remaining 76 percent of DACA permits could expire on their current date of expiration, which could be as soon as March 6, 2018.

The latest Salt Lake Tribune/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows that 69 percent of registered voters in Utah want a legislative fix for the uncertain status Dreamers now face. An October poll showed that number at 72 percent.

Jason Perry, executive director of the Hinckley Institute, said, “In Utah, the best approach is to support these Dreamers. From conservative Republicans to Democrats, they want protection for the Dreamers.”

Most Americans agree with Utahns. According to a CBS News poll, 87 percent of Americans favor allowing DACA recipients to stay.

So why, then, did the federal government shut down over an issue most Americans agree on? Democrats claimed they would not support a funding bill that did not address a DACA fix. Republicans promised they would propose legislation in a separate bill. Stalemate.

If Congress cannot agree on an issue that most of its constituents agree on, there is not much hope for cooperation on issues where they actually differ.

The real kicker is that just a few weeks ago a federal district court judge in California entered a preliminary injunction against Trump’s executive order rescinding DACA. The federal government has asked the Supreme Court to review the district court’s decision, but did not seek to stay the injunction while the case is pending. The federal government is therefore under court order to keep reviewing DACA requests. Thus, in effect, DACA protections remain in place.

So why did Republicans and Democrats in Congress feel the issue was urgent enough to shut down the federal government over? There is no good answer.

Both parties quickly realized they lose support when the government shuts down. Hopefully both parties will also get the message that they will lose support if they don’t legislate DACA. And soon.