Dreamer: Shutdown plan ‘makes me feel like a bargaining chip’
The latest idea by Sen. Lindsey Graham to solve the federal government shutdown standoff with an immigration compromise, floated on Sunday, created a bit of chatter between Lucas Codognolla and some of his fellow DACA participants.
One New York friend texted Codognolla, an undocumented resident of Bridgeport. “He was like, ‘Is this going to be a thing?’”
Well, no, it’s not. Or maybe it will. Either way, the fact that the incoming chairman of the U.S. Senate judiciary committee hatched a scheme and claimed the president of the United States likes the idea should ring alarms along with New Year’s chimes.
The plan by the South Carolina Republican would give President Donald Trump the $5.2 billion he wants for a Mexico border wall, slotted fence, or whatever metaphor we want to concoct for this needless waste.
In exchange, the nearly 800,000 young undocumented people caught in limbo under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would receive the right to apply for a three-year extension.
“It makes me feel like a bargaining chip,” Codognolla said.
He’s executive director of Connecticut Students for a Dream, an advocacy group for the so-called Dreamers who came to the United States before 2007 as children of undocumented immigrants. And having come from Brazil at age 9 and grown up in Connecticut, he’s the only member of his immediate family, three siblings and his parents, who isn’t either a U.S. citizen or a green card holder.
“It makes me angry about the whole situation that we’re in around this whole metaphor for the wall, and it makes me sad that we’re not able to reform our whole immigration system,” Codognolla said Monday.
Graham floated a similar idea earlier this year and it didn’t go over well in part because everyone realized Trump can’t be trusted from one day to the next. Now he’s trying to execute an immigration fix as part of talks to end the partial government shutdown that seems headed well into the new year.
That’s a bit like trying to reach a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians as part of a plea bargain on a criminal case. Immigration reform on its own is almost impossible to achieve, although Congress came close in 2015.
As part of talks to end a partial shutdown? Ridiculous on every level. It would have raised blood pressures in the immigrant services community if they hadn’t seen this movie before. Instead, it was just a reminder that Graham, well-meaning as he may be, is part of a cabal of Republicans that’s allowing an ignorant president to manage the nation into the gutter.
“To kind of say, ‘Let’s hurry up and come to some kind of compromise quickly’ on these really intractable issues doesn’t make sense and it’s really unfair to the people whose lives and opportunities are at stake,” said Claudia Connor, president and CEO of the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, based in Bridgeport.
“Thoughtful and sustainable solutions can’t be done in a rushed way,” Connor said.
And with the Trump administration, she added, “The issue is trust.”
The issue encompasses just about every aspect of American culture, not least, the economy. We’re talking about more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, most of whom are working at a time when the workforce is short staffed — nowhere more than in Connecticut.
The whole reason we ran into this crisis to begin with is that the legal immigration system is broken and doesn’t allow enough people into the country. But advocates and people caught in the crossfire have pretty much given up hope of a solution under Trump.
”I really don’t think we can pass any policies with this administration that won’t be detrimental to immigrants,” Codognolla said, explaining why his group focuses on state laws such as an act last spring giving all immigrants the right to financial aid from state colleges and universities.
That’s too bad, but for now, the pressing need is to reopen the government by the end of this week.
”We’re not against border enforcement,” said Catalina Horak, executive director of Building One Community on Stamford, an immigrant services group. But she said, “This concrete wall at the border with absolutely no other way of making a comprehensive package for immigration reform is not going to work….It’s a very complex issue and we need to deal with it in a multifaceted way.”
On its own, the tradeoff — money for a wall in exchange for expanded rights for dreamers and other undocumented immigrants — “would be a very divisive issue within the immigrant community,” Codognolla said.
It’s a farce as part of talks to end the shutdown because it’s a quick fix of a temporary solution of a patchwork of outdated laws.
“DACA has always been a temporary fix and we need to talk about real permanent solutions for the immigrant community,” he said.