After weeks of buildup and two days of actual speechifying, what has actually emerged from the Senate’s much-anticipated immigration debate?
“Not too much,” said Anu Joshi, the New York Immigration Coalition’s director of immigration policy.
The live debate, streamed on CSPAN and various other news sites including WNYC, was the result of a bargain between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrats.
But in the words of The Atlantic, this is “The great Senate immigration debate that wasn’t.”
James Wallner, a legislative expert at The R Street Institute, a libertarian think tank, said the process so far has been characterized by a complete lack of transparency.
“Basically they’re just structuring the process on the floor to ratify, to the best of their ability, these agreements, these compromised bills, that they negotiate elsewhere behind closed doors, with who-knows-who, Wallner said. “It’s completely unlike anything we’ve seen before.”
At stake are the futures of 700,000 recipients of DACA, who lose protections on March 5. Republicans have been pushing for enhanced border security measures, as well as changes to the diversity visa program and family reunification laws.
Joshi said she’s reluctant to get overly cynical at this point.
“I have to be optimistic that Congress is going to follow will of the American public,” said immigration activist Joshi, noting that there is broad support for DACA.
Joshi conceded that much of the public hasn’t been watching the debate — “understandably there’s a lot going on right now” — but Antonio Alarcon, a Dreamer who works at Make the Road New York, has been paying close attention and said the construction of a wall “shouldn’t have a place in this debate.”
“Democrats have to stand strong and resist these unacceptable proposals,” he said.