Two weeks ago, progressive activists protested after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to end a government shutdown with only a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up immigration legislation.
Now, with the short-term spending fix set to expire Thursday, they’re watching warily to see whether Schumer (D-N.Y.) can deliver for nearly 700,000 young immigrants known as “Dreamers” who face deportation.
“We really hope that this time he will not fail us,” said Walter Barrientos, Make the Road’s Long Island organizing director, who demonstrated against Schumer in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump set a March 5 expiration date for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, unless Congress can turn into legislation the protections that former President Barack Obama created via executive action.
Senate leaders were working toward increasing spending caps to avert another shutdown at midnight Thursday. Less clear was whether they can settle on a long-term solution for DACA by then.
Trump proposed an immigration framework last month that would create a path to citizenship for 1.8 million people who qualify for DACA — more than twice the number of current beneficiaries. In exchange, he sought $25 billion in border security investments, including his border wall.
Schumer has rejected Trump’s framework and appealed to moderates to hash out a deal. “We hope our moderate senators will strive to find a narrow bill on DACA and border security that can pass,” he said last week.
The sentiment — coupled with what those in the Democratic Party’s liberal wing see as Schumer caving last month to Trump and McConnell (R-Ky.) — has angered progressive activists.
“Chuck Schumer is the far-right wing of the Democratic Party,” said Ron Widelec of Commack, a steering committee member of Long Island Activists. Of the Democrats, he said: “They have no leverage. They’ve shown that they’re not willing to hold their ground.”
But New York Democrats in the House, including those with immigrant-heavy constituencies, have been asking for patience from the liberal grass roots.
“I am confident that Senator Schumer will continue to work with the Democrats to get a balanced bill, and that we get Mitch McConnell to honor his word,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan). “Everyone has the right to feel the way they feel. I am also upset and frustrated, but we don’t have the majority.”
House Democratic caucus chairman Joseph Crowley, whose district includes the Bronx and Queens, said, “I can understand the frustration, especially of folks who have taken the time to come to D.C. to demonstrate and to be a part of the action, but Rome was not built in a day.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens/Nassau) said he believes Schumer did what he had to do with an eye toward winning back the Senate and House in this year’s midterm elections.
“Because what’s best for the left, what’s best for the moderates, what’s best for even the conservative Democrats, is for us to be in the majority,” Meeks said.