These are dramatic days, hours, minutes in Washington.
Congress is working to approve a federal budget and avoid a government shutdown by Friday, and come up with a fix for the DREAMers crisis, and rescue the Children’s Health Insurance program.
In many ways, it’s a watershed moment for South Florida. You’d think Sen. Marco Rubio would be front and center — at least in the effort to find a clean solution for DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
But he’s not.
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“We don’t have his support; we don’t know exactly why,” Miami activist Adrian Escarate told the Editorial Board on Wednesday.
That’s a shame.
Rubio once proved to be a leader in the push for immigration reform. Now, though not totally AWOL in this new and worthy effort, he’s been real hard to find.
He did show up on Tuesday, on camera, to boot, to downplay the current “hair-on-fire” rhetoric about fixing DACA now. “You can’t shut down the government over DACA,” Rubio told reporters when he attended a Congressional hearing in Miami. “The deadline is in March, not Friday of this week.”
Given that about 700,000 young people are on pins and needles about whether they will be allowed to stay in this country — many of them in the state he represents — he sounds much too sanguine about getting Congress and President Trump to “Yes.”
DREAMers are young people in the United States illegally, brought as children by their parents or whose parents overstayed visas. In 2012, an executive order by President Obama granted them DACA status, under which they could work and get a driver’s license and other privileges.
In September, “tough on immigrants” President Trump repealed DACA. Now, they could lose those privileges and be forced back to homelands they don’t know.
Again, the DREAMers are looking over their shoulders, in limbo and in fear.
But Rubio seems barely publicly engaged in finding a solution for the DREAMers. Meanwhile, the Senate has a seesawing number of members who support /don’t support a bipartisan agreement that needs enough backers for Senate President Mitch McConnell to bring to the floor for a vote. Problem is, President Trump stands in opposition — no provisions for border security.
DREAMers said they’ll take almost any deal, except one: They will not give up the opportunity to help their parents gain legal status, or at least avoid deportation. That’s what Trump calls “chain immigration,” where, once they have legal standing, immigrants can sponsor noncitizen relatives. It’s a principled stand that should be factored into negotiations and the final bill.
Rubio might be skittish about being identified with an immigration issue again. The ground tends to be littered with landmines, as Miami U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart discovered when he refused to denounce Trump’s vulgar reference to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries that, worse, implying that immigrants from those countries were far less worthy to be in the United States.
But at least Diaz-Balart is in there pitching. In 2013, Rubio took the lead in forming the “Gang of Eight” lawmakers pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. It ended in disaster, but Rubio clearly understood the import of the issue.
It’s no less important now, and the junior senator from Florida should get in the game.