When Democrats in the Senate agreed to end the government shutdown Monday, they did so having faith that the DACA legislation their constituents crave would be discussed at a later date. After all, Majority leader Mitch McConnell promised.
But anyone who mistakes McConnell's vow for progress in the DACA debate might soon face a disappointing reality: there is no guarantee that the Senate will agree on legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the nation's nearly 800,000 young people stuck in legal limbo, 200,000 of whom live in California.
If a bill were to clear the Senate, it faces long odds in the House. And if that bill managed to survive, it would find itself at the mercy of a president who has proven to be a challenging negotiating partner.
So say two immigration experts in a recent discussion on Take Two. The Hoover Institution's Jeremy Carl and USC's Manuel Pastor may have differing views on how to tackle the nation's toughest immigration questions, but they can agree on one thing: finding a way to bring the certainty that only permanent status can provide to young immigrants is going to be a slog.
Here are highlights from their conversation.
Jeremy, Democrats in the Senate, are hopeful that a deal can be reached, but exactly how seems a lot more uncertain now than ever. Looking just at Republicans in the Senate, what would they need to pass a bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients?
I think the key things that would have to happen are reforms on chain-migration and an end to the visa lottery. I think when you look at the president, there's going to have to be something done that is significant on the border wall because that has been a core part of something that he's promised voters ever since his campaign.
Manuel, we've heard that the president must have funding for a border to sign any legislation. Focusing just on the Democrats, what are they going to need to be a lot more flexible to make a deal a reality.
I think it's going to be tough for the Democrats because — just like the Republicans are [pushed] by their right wing that wants to be restrictive on immigration reform — Democrats are being tugged by a newly energized, progressive wing that is quite opposed to any of the extras that have been proposed for an immigration bill. They're facing a lot of pressure for a so-called "Clean Dream Act," which would just deal with the Dreamers or DACA recipients. But there is going to be pressure to make a deal, and I think it will have the aspects that Jeremy is talking about.
Jeremy, Republican Whip Steve Scalise has said that even if the Senate passes a bill, Republicans might not give it an eyeball. For Republicans in the House, what would it take for a piece of legislation to survive the house?
Certainly, you're not going to see any "Clean Dream Act," no matter what from Republicans in the House or the Senate. So the question is what are the other things in there?
In the House, you need to see meaningful border security provisions and meaningful reforms to our existing immigration system. I think those are — frankly — going to have to be shown to be real before there's going to be any legalization. I think it's a shame because there is an impetus to get something done here and if this becomes something that is about the welfare of people that are here now, I think there's a deal to be done. If it's going to be about future flows, I think there's not going to be a deal to be done.
Manuel, what about Democrats in the House?
What Republicans are proposing in the House is a path for the Dreamers that includes no route to citizenship or even permanent legal status — pretty dramatic decreases in legal immigration. A lot of those will be very hard for Democrats in either the House of Representatives or the Senate to swallow.
(Answers have been edited for clarity. Full interview available to hear.)