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Senate Proposals Dealing With 'Dreamers' Go Down to Defeat

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Proposals in the Senate designed to address undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children, as well as other aspects of the nation's immigration system, were all rejected by lawmakers on Thursday. 

The defeat of all these plans appears to make it much more difficult for Congress to pass a bill protecting the group known as "Dreamers" before March 5, when President Donald Trump has said he will formally end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, rule designed to provide them some legal protections. DACA was enacted by former President Barack Obama in 2012 by executive order. Roughly 250,000 school-age children have become eligible for DACA since Obama put the rule in place. In addition, about 9,000 educators who are protected by DACA work in U.S. schools, according to an estimate from the Migration Policy Institute. 

Trump has previously said he wants Congress to act and pass a bill formally enshrining DACA into law, although he's also publicly used DACA as a bargaining chip to push priorities like additional border security and tighter restrictions on immigration. 

Education advocacy groups, including the two national teachers' unions and organizations like Teach For America, have pushed Congress hard to protect both students and teachers who would benefit from a permanent DACA fix. But despite various forms of political pressure related to DACA, Congress has yet to act. 

The proposals were introduced as Senate amendments to the Broader Options for America Act, which technically dealt with the Internal Revenue Service. The Senate votes were on ending debate for the respective amendments, not on the amendments themselves. Any proposal had to clear a 60-vote threshold in order to proceed.

The proposal that had the most support among moderates in the Senate was a plan sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that had the backing of some moderates on both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine. It would create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers under certain conditions. That proposal failed 54-45. Meanwhile, the Trump administration threw its support behind a plan headlined by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. It also would have created an "earned path" to citizenship for DACA recipients. It earned 39 votes in favor of ending debate, compared to 60 against. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. John McCain, John McCain, R-Ariz., also offered a proposal that fell short by 52-47. However, the proposals would have treated different groups of migrants in different ways. 

The Migration Policy Instiute summed up the difference between those three proposals in the chart below. It also examined a proposal from Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., that did not get a cloture vote in the round of voting Thursday afternoon:

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Any proposal that would have passed out of the Senate likely would have faced a very tough time passing the House. 


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