Illegal immigrant “Dreamers” ramped up pressure on Congress on Tuesday to approve legislation granting them full access to U.S. citizenship, urging Democrats and Republicans to be prepared to shut down the government otherwise.
Dozens of Dreamers staged a sit-in at the office of Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican, demanding that he join a growing list of lawmakers who have said they won’t vote for any spending bill to keep the government open until illegal immigrants are accommodated.
Dreamers also erected a giant screen on the National Mall, just across the street from the Capitol’s reflecting pool, showing videos of Dreamers demanding action. On Wednesday, the young adult illegal immigrants will also open a command center tent on the Mall, which they’ll use to organize their lobbying efforts.
“I feel so frustrated. I feel so helpless, because I feel like this should have already been passed,” one of the protesters at the Senate sit-in said. She said she could be deported in June without new protections.
Dreamers have set a year-end deadline for Congress to grant them full legal status and a pathway to citizenship, saying it must be part of any 2018 spending bill lawmakers pass.
Without a new spending bill by Dec. 22 the government would face a partial shutdown.
GOP leaders, though, have rejected the year-end deadline and say there’s no reason to link immigration to the spending bill.
“DACA’s separate, that’s a separate issue,” Mr. Ryan told reporters Tuesday.
DACA is the Obama-era deportation amnesty for Dreamers. Mr. Trump announced in September he was phasing out the legally suspect program by March 5, giving Congress six months to act.
Democratic leaders, though, have bowed to pressure from Dreamers, adopting their artificial year-end deadline.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Democrats are willing to risk a shutdown over the matter. While a number of rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers have said they won’t vote to keep the government open, leaders have been less certain.
“There’s a broad feeling in our caucus that we want to see DACA taken care of before the end of the year,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, though he said he doubts it gets to the point of a shutdown showdown.
He’s counting on enough Republicans breaking with their leadership’s strategy and insisting a solution for Dreamers gets done this year, as part of the spending bills.
Several dozen Republicans signed a letter last week saying they did want to see a bill done this year — though they did not commit to a shutdown showdown.
Mr. Schumer said Democrats are willing to accept “a significant investment in border security” as an exchange for a DACA solution, but Republicans are asking for far more than border changes.
After Monday’s botched terrorist attack on the New York City subway, the White House has doubled down on calls to eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery and to curtail the chain migration that allowed the suspected terrorist to enter the U.S.
Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old from Bangladesh, came to the country in 2011 as the nephew of a man who gained citizenship through the visa lottery. He was the lowest family priority, or fourth-preference category.
Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the botched pipe-bomb attack underscored past warnings about fraud and abuse in the diversity lottery.
“Pretty much anybody on the planet who’s from a qualifying country can take advantage of this,” Mr. Cissna said at the White House.
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday lodged terrorism charges against Mr. Ullah and released more details of the attack. They said they found pipes and bomb-making equipment in his home and anti-American rantings written into his passport.
Mr. Ullah’s radicalization dates back to at least 2014, prosecutors said, and began researching how to make a homemade bomb a year ago. After the attack he told investigators he was inspired by the Islamic State.