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New Congressional Era: Spending In, Deficit Out, Wall $1.8 B
Peggy Sands Orchowski -- Immigration Expert Peggy Sands Orchowski -- Immigration Expert
Washington , DC
Monday, February 12, 2018


New Congressional Era: Spending In, Deficits Out, Wall $1.8 B

By Peggy Sands Orchowski

Legislators are earning their keep this month.

Last week, both houses passed a two year 31 trillion dollar federal budget Friday Feb. 9 at 5 a.m. refunding the government after a five-hour shut down.  In the massive new budget, there was no mention of legalizing illegal immigrants -- DACA recipients and DREAMERS for which Congressional minority leader Nancy Pelossi (CA) performed an historic eight-hour "magic minute" House leadership filibuster on Wednesday Feb. 7. 

Neither was there any reduction in the trillions of dollars of higher deficit, for which libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul (KY) performed a six hour filibuster on Thursday Feb. 8 that lasted passed midnight when funding for the government officially expired.  Party faithful members sitting dutifully next to the two filibusterers with candidate-wives expressions of rapt approval, paid their dues for the votes to follow.

Now the real work begins in Congress. Budgeted money still has three more steps to go before it actually is expended: appropriations, allocations and expenditures. For instance, the first hearings on the some $300 billion budgeted for defense spending will be held Tuesday Feb. 13 in the House, when the Armed Services committee holds two closed meetings and one open to discuss defense authorizations and the actual evidences of world wide cyber and other terrorist threats.  Many such committee hearings will be held as the appropriations and authorization process proceeds over the next many weeks before the money ever gets to the agency Secretaries, who then will decide how the money is actually spent.

In the meantime, new legislative proposals, much of it driven by the President, will Congress this week. A huge one is the unprecedented $1.5 trillion proposal President Trump issued this morning to fund deteriorating and new infrastructure programs throughout the country. Just about every legislative committee will be involved in the weeks and months to come.  The big question to be answered: "Where will the money come from?" 

Then there's the promise to do something about immigration – often described as "fixing our broken immigration system". That has meant different things to different parties: for the Democrats the focus has been on giving 700,000 to 4 million DACA DREAMERS green cards -- Permanent Legal Residency permits, the only permit that can lead to citizenship.

The number depends on which definition is used.  DREAMERS as defined in yet-to-be-passed Dream Act legislation, are anyone who "came in the U.S. before the age of 16", have been here five years, graduated from high school or its equivalent, and are under the age of 30.  There are no English language requirements. About 2 million would qualify.

Senator Dick Durbin's recent Dream Act proposal would allow them to have come in before the age of 18 with no upper age limit.  Close to four million would qualify.

DACA recipients are DREAMERS who applied on an individual basis for President Obama's executive memo of 2012 establishing a temporary Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.  Some 700,000 renewed before President Trump ended the program on March 5, 2018 , when all DACA recipients will begin to lose (depending on their renewal date) their temporary protection from deportation and their temporary work permits. 

The numbers could go up even more.  Many DACA DREAMERS want their parents and older siblings included or no deal.  But almost all DREAMERS are not kids; they are adults, millennials ages 18-30.

Many Americans are very conflicted about DREAMERS. Even most Republicans are sympathetic about the idea of legalizing those who were brought in by their parents as very young children innocently and illegally. But since Democrats, who have been using DREAMERS (unsuccessfully) to pass a broad comprehensive immigration reform that would have legalized almost all of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, Republicans now want something for DREAMER legalization. 

The President's plan includes new laws that would end family reunification/chain migration; replace diversity visas perhaps for merit-based ones; and punish sanctuary cities that harbor illegal immigrant criminals.  It would exchange the legalization of DREAMERS for stricter enforcement of immigration laws such as e-verify and increased border security.  The infrastructure plan includes $18 billion for a wall and some $5 billion for other border enhancements.

Beginning today, the Senate will take up the discussions.  Congressional committees and the House will follow next week. 

The infrastructure bill, the new budget and the immigration debates seem to indicate a new philosophy in Congress today: spending is in, deficits are out, trade is the MO. 

The number of illegal immigrants to be legalized probably well determine what will be traded in exchange.

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“We can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been”. Vice President of the Brookings Institution Darrell West wrote in recommending Peggy Sands Orchowski’s books   "The Law That Changed The Face of America: The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965" and  "Immigration and the American Dream: Battling the Political Hype and Hysteria" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015 and 2008 respectively).  Peggy is a credentialed Senior Congressional journalist in Washington DC. She is available for interviews, article assignments and speaking engagements about immigration   porchowski@hotmail.com

Peggy Sands Orchowski
Senior Congressional Correspondent
Washington, DC
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