A deadline imposed by President Donald Trump for a legislative solution for so-called Dreamers has come and gone, yielding no solution. Trump blames Democrats, saying they have been absent from and uninterested in a deal.
"It’s March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA," Trump tweeted March 5. "Gave them 6 months, they just don’t care. Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!"
The Trump administration in September began phasing out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. That’s the Obama-era program that protected from deportation immigrants in the country illegally who arrived when they were children, often called Dreamers.
On March 5, a federal judge in Maryland said the Trump administration had the authority to rescind DACA. In a separate case, a federal judge in California in January ordered the administration to resume accepting DACA renewal applications and to keep the program on the same terms and conditions in effect, pending a final court judgment.
The question in this fact-check is have Democrats been on the sidelines, as Trump claimed?
We found Trump’s tweet ignores Democratic and bipartisan efforts to find a solution. And it also downplays the president’s own posturing that has impeded a deal. The White House did not provide an on-the-record response to our queries.
Meetings with Trump: Trump and several lawmakers, including Democrats, met Jan. 9 to discuss a permanent law to benefit Dreamers, funding for the border wall and additional changes to the country’s legal immigration system. In the televised meeting, Trump expressed a willingness to work with Democrats and even to help the broader population of millions of immigrants in the country illegally.
"What about a clean DACA bill now, with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure?" Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Trump, since there is broad support for DACA but not for other immigration measures.
"I would like to do that. Go ahead. I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first," Trump said.
Republican lawmakers, however, rejected that idea, saying border security had to be part of the deal and not come at a later date.
Toward the end of the meeting, Trump said he’d rely on the people at the meeting and approve their future proposal.
"I have a lot of respect for the people on both sides. What I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with," Trump said. "I have great confidence in the people. If they come to me with things that I'm not in love with, I'm going to do it because I respect them."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and other Republican lawmakers met again with Trump on Jan. 11 to continue DACA talks. But negotiations took a step back after reports that Trump used disparaging language to describe some countries. Durbin told reporters that Trump "said things that were hate-filled, vile, and racist." Trump tweeted that Durbin "totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting" and that "Durbin blew DACA."
Legislative attempts: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Feb. 28 sent a letter to Trump listing several bipartisan bills they said Trump has rejected.
"You have thwarted every bipartisan, narrow agreement that seeks to provide relief to Dreamers and instead have attempted to force a deeply unpopular, anti-immigrant agenda through Congress," the letter said. "We cannot expect Congress to make any headway on protecting Dreamers until the White House and Republicans, who control every branch of government, choose to work with Democrats on a bipartisan DACA fix."
Two Senate bills dealing with Dreamers failed to get 60 votes. Both proposals included Democratic support. One proposal was sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and John McCain, R-Ariz., the other by Sens. Mike Rounds, R-N.D., and Angus King, I-Maine, (most Democrats voted for it). The Trump administration opposed both proposals.
On Jan. 11, a group of six senators — three Republicans and three Democrats — said they had reached a bipartisan agreement on immigration that addressed border security, the diversity visa lottery, "chain migration" and Dreamers. Trump also opposed that deal.
"The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday to myself and a group of Republican Senators and Congressmen was a big step backwards. Wall was not properly funded, Chain & Lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime....." Trump tweeted Jan. 12.
A proposal from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, supported by Trump, was the least popular of four proposals voted on in mid-February, failing 39-60.
Despite repeated Twitter claims that Democrats are absent from efforts to help Dreamers, Trump has also acknowledged their involvement.
"While the Republicans and Democrats in Congress are working hard to come up with a solution to DACA, they should be strongly considering a system of Merit Based Immigration so that we will have the people ready, willing and able to help all of those companies moving into the USA!" Trump tweeted Feb. 15.
The next day, he tweeted that it was only Republicans working and that Democrats had abandoned DACA recipients.
Willing to compromise on the wall: A major sticking point in the debates has been Trump’s demand for a border wall in exchange for a DACA deal. Some Democrats, in order to get a DACA deal, said they would discuss the border wall.
"The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!" Trump tweeted Dec. 29.
On Jan. 23, he tweeted again that "if there is no Wall, there is no DACA."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in January said he had "reluctantly put the border wall on the table for discussion" in exchange for strong DACA protections, but later rescinded that offer.
Also in January, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said that while the border wall was "a monumental waste of taxpayers’ money," he would be in favor of it if that’s what it took to help Dreamers.
January government shutdown: In January, Senate Democrats demanded a solution for the Dreamers in exchange for their votes on a bill that would keep the government running. When the Senate took up a House measure that excluded a deal for Dreamers, many Democrats rejected it. With a failed bill, the government on Jan. 20 entered its first shutdown since 2013. (Democrats received criticism for supporting a previous short-term spending bill in December that did not address Dreamers.)
As the January shutdown loomed, Trump bashed Democrats for withholding votes because of DACA.
"Sadly, Democrats want to stop paying our troops and government workers in order to give a sweetheart deal, not a fair deal, for DACA. Take care of our Military, and our Country, FIRST!" Trump tweeted Jan. 12.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s hours-long speech: Pelosi spoke for more than eight hours on the House Floor on Feb. 7, sharing stories about Dreamers and demanding a Republican commitment to vote on an immigration bill. Pelosi’s hours-long speech came as Republicans sought to pass another short-term government funding bill, opposed by Pelosi because it did not include protections for Dreamers.
Congress eventually passed a budget deal after a few hours of a government shutdown.
"Costs on non-military lines will never come down if we do not elect more Republicans in the 2018 Election, and beyond. This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes. Fortunately, DACA not included in this Bill, negotiations to start now!" Trump tweeted on Feb. 9.
Trump tweeted, "Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA."
This fact-check isn't about assigning blame to a political party for the lack of a DACA deal. In reality, both political parties likely bear some responsibility.
But Trump underplays and ignores the efforts of Democrats to reach a solution to help Dreamers, including meetings with Trump, bipartisan proposals, and a stated willingness to discuss border wall funding.
We rate Trump’s claim False.