December 21, 2017 at 11:58 am PST | by Karen Ocamb
UPDATE: De Leon challenges Feinstein over DACA

State Sen. President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

UPDATE: The Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the government shortly after the House passed their CR. Feinstein voted NO on the CR that did not include a DACA fix or long term funding for the CHIP (children’s) program. Feinstein is not ceding political ground.

As Republicans slather Donald Trump in hyperbolic praise and congratulated themselves on partisan passage of a controversial “tickle-down” tax reform deal, Democrats are debating amongst themselves whether to vote against a continuing spending bill to avoid a government shutdown by the end of Friday if it does not include a promised “fix” for the DREAM Act. It appears there is a bipartisan consensus—especially among Senate Democrats seeking a tough reelection in 2018— to kick the immigration vote until January.

Trump said he would shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in March unless there is a congressional solution. DACA provides a legal pathway for young undocumented immigrants, DREAMers who were brought to the US illegally as children, to be protected from deportation to a country they’ve never known and be able to get work and an education. As of last Sept., an estimated 1.1 million youth under age 16 were eligible for DACA, with nearly 800,000 participants in the program started in 2012 by President Obama. The Williams Institute  estimates that there are over 75,000 LGBT DREAMers in the U.S. and over 36,000 have participated in the DACA. That may be an underreported number since cultural attitudes may prevent some young people from coming out as LGBT.

On Oct. 25, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she wanted a DACA fix before a Dec. 8 deadline, which has long passed. Republican Speaker Paul Ryan wants to pass a “clean” continuing resolution, stripped of all controversial and money-costing bills to keep the government open. Democratic senators have more leverage but it is unclear if they will use it or will be concerned that Republicans will blame them for a government shutdown before Christmas.

Last October, California Sen. Kamala Harris promised she would be a “no” vote without the fix. “I will not vote for an end-of-year spending bill until we are clear about what we are going to do to protect and take care of our DACA young people in this country,” Harris said.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has not said what she will do, which left an opening for her re-election opponent, California, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, to issue a stark challenge.

“Dreamers make up hundreds of thousands of Sen. Feinstein’s constituents, and while talking a good game on Dreamers, when it comes to standing up and supporting them, she is AWOL,” De León said at a news conference with Los Angeles-based Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, DREAMers and immigration activists in downtown LA on Wednesday. Some activists have been protesting outside Feinstein’s Washington and San Francisco offices.

De León told Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who co-sponsored Dream Act legislation with Pelosi, “It is time to find your spine, sir.”

To Pelosi and his opponent, Dianne Feinstein, De León said: “Don’t come back to California if you haven’t demonstrated your leadership and your courage to stand up for these young men and women.”

“I can tell you this,” De León said. “If the Republicans were on the other side, they wouldn’t hesitate for a nanosecond to shut down the government to move forward what they believe in.”

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