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9:04 PM Mon, Jan. 21st

Column: Schumer, Pelosi back surrender on DACA - for now

After saber-rattling for weeks that they would shut down the federal government unless the 790,000 "dreamers" under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACAs) program were granted amnesty, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi quietly withdrew their threat.

Schumer and Pelosi realized what the rest of voting America knows – that outside the Beltway, DACA isn't a priority. The pair also knew that President Trump would use his favorite communication tool, Twitter, to send out the message that Democrats were willing to close the government unless this specific group of illegal immigrants received amnesty and the lifetime work permits that go with it. Giving the appearance that a relatively small illegal immigrant population has the power to shut down the government is bad, and is likely losing optics going into the 2018 mid-term elections.

The intimidation folderol ramped up in mid-September when Schumer and Pelosi announced that they had reached a DACA accord with President Trump which the media immediately, but prematurely, embraced. And since the Democrats have had no success in generating sufficient public enthusiasm on behalf of DACAs to sell amnesty back in the home districts of House representatives, they have given up – for now.

But DACA advocates never truly surrender even though they have been thwarted for more than 25 years on more than 20 similar proposals which began with the 2001 DREAM Act. For most, a quarter of a century long losing streak would be enough to cry uncle, but not for amnesty advocates.

Instead of focusing on national issues that have broader appeal and more urgency, two of the original Senate Gang of Eight members are working diligently to make 2018 the year that a Dream amnesty finally crosses the finish line. In July, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Dream Act of 2017. The proposed legislation's cosponsors, currently nine, include Gang of Eight veterans: Michael Bennet (D-CO), lame duck Jeff Flake, (R-AZ), Schumer (D-NY) and an assortment of long-standing amnesty enthusiasts, including Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and her junior colleague Kamala Harris.

Just as Lindsey and Durbin hoped to generate the necessary support for their Dream Act, along came the Congressional Budget Office to throw down a major roadblock. For more than 40 years, the CBO has done independent budget and economic studies of pending legislation. After looking at the Dream Act, the CBO concluded that, if it became law, over a ten-year period it would add $25.9 billion to the federal deficit.

The CBO determined that the Dream Act would grant approximately two million aliens amnesty and would give them work authorization. Legal status would make immigrants eligible for health insurance subsidies, among other entitlements, as well as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The amnestied immigrants would, CBO concluded, cost the government more in entitlements paid out than in revenue they might generate. The CBO calculated that the two million amnesties would eventually result in another 80,000 lawful permanent residents through chain migration - more fiscal outlays in future decades.

Amnesties don't benefit Americans. Instead, they encourage illegal immigration. Since President Ronald Reagan's 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, promoted as the last-ever amnesty, illegal immigration has continued uninterrupted.

If Congress wants to act on immigration, it should get realistic about admitting fewer immigrants with higher skills. Shifting from family-based immigration to skill-based would be true immigration reform.