The signing of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2018 by President Donald Trump set off a firestorm of mixed reactions, with both Democrats and Republicans lamenting that once again DACA recipients were being left in limbo, uncertain of their future in the U.S. with the looming threat of deportation.
Trump has since compounded the confusion by tweeting: “NO MORE DACA DEAL”.
Democrat Frederica S. Wilson, a U.S. congresswoman from Florida whose constituents include hundreds of Caribbean nationals, including DACA recipients, said she was “extremely disappointed that a DACA fix was not included” in the bill signed by Trump.
Last September, Trump ended DACA, which was authorized via executive order by former President Barack Obama in 2012. Under the program, children brought to the U.S. from the Caribbean and elsewhere without their knowledge or choice, who attended school and stayed crime-free, were allowed certain protections to live legally in the country. They could access privileges such as a work permit and driver’s license.
When Trump made his decision, he demanded the U.S. Congress come up with a permanent solution by Mar. 5, meaning a decision on whether or not DACA would become law. To date, the president has failed to agree with several proposals offered by both major U.S. political parties – Democrats and Republicans. Therefore, the fate of DACA remains uncertain, even court rulings have allowed the program to continue.
Although Trump signed the spending bill last month, he blamed Democrats as the reason a DACA solution was not addressed by the bill, although Republicans control Congress – House and Senate – plus the presidency. He also argued his party supported the plight of Caribbean nationals and others living under the terms of DACA.
“The Republicans are with you, they want to get your situation taken care of,” Trump said last month of DACA recipients as he discussed the $1.3 trillion spending bill he signed but then criticized.
“The Democrats fought us, they just fought every single inch of the way. They did not want DACA in this bill.”
Trump has the power, via executive order, to renew DACA immediately as it was under Obama.
Indications from Capitol Hill are that the issue of DACA, and other major immigration reforms which could benefit Caribbean nationals is unlikely to be completed before November’s midterm elections in the U.S.
Many DACA recipients are hoping the election will flip the majority Republicans currently hold in the House and Senate, allowing Democrats, who tend to heavily favor DACA, a chance to resolve the matter.
Trump has indicated several times he would support DACA recipients. However, he has previously changed his tone on the level of support, at times tying his backing to the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a key presidential election campaign promise.
Last November, Republican lawmakers met Trump, asking him not to attach a deal on DACA to a year-end funding bill. The year ended with no new DACA deal.
In early January Trump declared “I’m signing it” if an immigration bill addressed “four pillars”, including DACA, border security, chain or family-based migration and the visa diversity lottery program. But, days later, Trump rejected a bi-partisan immigration plan from two senators which would include a path to U.S. citizenship for eligible DACA recipients. The president reportedly lashed out at some nations where some of those immigrants came from. He called them “shit hole countries,” sparking another backlash as U.S. and worldwide leaders bashed Trump’s characterization.
On Feb. 26, the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to address DACA renewals. That prevented the U.S. from deporting DACA recipients after Trump’s deadline to address the program expired last month. The move eased the pressure on the U.S. Congress to find a permanent fix for DACA.
More than 600,000 DACA recipients, including thousands from the Caribbean, could be deported from the U.S. if the matter is not eventually resolved, since they did not arrive in the U.S. legally or may have violated their legal status while in the country.
Meanwhile, the spending bill signed by Trump offered some relief for the Caribbean, including $10 million to assist communities in Haiti affected by cholera.