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DACA Vote Creates Midterm Election Dilemma for Republican Legislators Facing Primary Challenges

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President Trump said on Tuesday that proposed legislation designed to trade off legal status for 800,000 illegals who have obtained temporary work permits under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in return for greater immigration control and border security “should be a bill of love.”

For Republican legislators facing potential primary challenges, however, any DACA deal could become “a bill of headaches.”

While a flurry of legislative proposals have been either submitted or discussed since Tuesday’s bipartisan negotiation session, there is considerable uncertainty whether the final bill that may emerge will be considered a betrayal of President Trump’s campaign promises on immigration control and border security or a successfully negotiated accomplishment that furthers the Trump campaign agenda.

The Obama administration established the DACA program in 2012 through a policy memorandum issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Under that program, which many conservatives called unconstitutional, illegal aliens who arrived in the United States as children were allowed to obtain two-year work permits, which were renewable, thereby able to legally reside in the country.

Axios reported:

There are roughly 800,000 people participating in DACA — the Obama-era program ended by the Trump administration that shielded undocumented immigrants who arrived as children. The bulk of the people in the program are presently in their 20s, and about 80% arrived when they were 10 or younger, according to an August 2017 survey of 3,036 DACA recipients by the left-leaning Center for American progress.

According to that August 2017 survey, the average age today for those granted DACA work permits is 25.2. The average age at the time of arrival was 6.5, which would place the average time in the country since illegal arrival at 18.7 years.

Approximately 70 percent of the estimated 800,000 DACA participants were initially approved while illegally residing in these ten states: California (222,795), Texas (124,300), Illinois (42,376), New York (41,970), Florida (32,795), Arizona (27,865), Georgia (24,135), New Jersey (22,024), Washington (17,843), and Colorado (17,758).

An additional 3.7 million illegal aliens would have been eligible to obtain similar protections under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program proposed by the Obama administration in 2014 that never went into effect due to successful court challenges.

“A DACA amnesty has concerned Breitbart readers, Trump supporters, and amnesty critics alike, as they see it is a path towards amnesty for the entire illegal alien population, which ranges between 12 to 30 million,” Breitbart News reported on Wednesday.

On Thursday, news broke verifying that concern when Breitbart News reported a memo was leaked from a prominent “left-wing organization, the Center for American Progress Action Fund [which] admits that passing an amnesty for the nearly 800,000 illegal aliens shielded from deportation by the President Obama-created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is ‘a critical component of the Democratic Party’s future electoral success.'”

“According to the memo sent to Democrats, which is co-authored by former Hillary Clinton official Jennifer Palmieri, the Democratic Party is relying on a DACA amnesty deal — that President Trump seems more open to now than ever before — in order to ensure future wins in Congressional and presidential elections,” Breitbart News reported.

On Wednesday, Marc Short, the White House legislative director, gave a signal that President Trump is, in fact, open to such a deal.

“The president believes that people who are here under the DACA program, again, are contributing to our society, and we want to make sure that they stay here,” Short told NPR in an interview aired on Wednesday,” Short told, adding:

I think the president believes that people who are here under the DACA program, again, are contributing to our society, and we want to make sure that they stay here. There is a lot of immigration rhetoric on both sides, but the reality of what we want is, I think, something that is practical to secure our country, to change immigration laws moving forward and to protect those who are here. I think the president views that as something that is very empathetic and sympathetic on both sides.

Four months ago, on September 5, the Trump administration said in a statement it was “rescinding the previous Administration’s memorandum creating the unlawful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and [it] has begun to end the program responsibly.”

“Under the change announced today, current DACA recipients generally will not be impacted until after March 5, 2018, six months from now. That period of time gives Congress the opportunity to consider appropriate legislative solutions,” the statement added.

Another unknown is what, if any action, President Trump will take if March 6 arrives and Congress has not passed a DACA bill for his signature. His options at that time will be to do nothing and let the program remain expired–thereby potentially placing the DACA recipients whose work permits have expired at risk of deportation–or to extend the current program for some period of time.

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted released in September shortly after President Trump’s announcement, “53 percent of all Americans want lawmakers to codify DACA, which allows many young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay in the country,” but the breakdown by party, and even further by Republican Trump supporters, reveals dramatic differences on this issue.

When asked, “Should DACA be continued by Congress or ended?” 76 percent of Democrats wanted the program to continue, while ten percent wanted it to end.

In contrast, only 29 percent of Republicans wanted it to continue, while 39 percent wanted it to end; and 51 percent of independents wanted it to continue, while 20 percent wanted it to end.

The breakdown among Republicans was even more dramatic.

Only 15 percent of Republicans who described themselves as Trump supporters wanted DACA to continue, and 49 percent wanted it to end. Among Republicans who described themselves as primarily GOP supporters, 32 percent wanted it to continue, and 26 percent wanted it to end.

No poll has yet been conducted that asks Republican voters who consider themselves Trump supporters, “Should DACA be continued by Congress in return for immigration control and border security?”

The 2018 primary season begins in Texas on March 6, the first day on which DACA recipients whose work permits have expired could potentially be deported. The last significant Republican primary will be held on August 28 in Florida.

It is unclear whether a DACA deal will be presented for a final vote in either the House or the Senate during the primary season, but several Republican legislators may face a dilemma if they are forced to vote on a DACA deal deemed to be a betrayal of President Trump’s campaign promises before they face the voters in a contested primary.

The Securing America’s Future bill that Rep. Bob Goodlatte filed on Wednesday, if presented for a final vote as originally submitted, has several elements that would make it acceptable to the Trump base. It provides statutory authorization for the DACA program that many conservatives currently consider unconstitutional by authorizing DACA eligible illegals–aliens who arrived in the United States as children–to apply for three-year work permits. It does not, however, provide an easier path to citizenship, requiring DACA recipients to go through current citizenship application procedures.

In return for this significant concession, the bill secures the following: an end to chain migration, an end to the visa lottery, the nationwide implementation of E-Verify, and authorization of, though not appropriation for, a border wall, Breitbart News reported on Wednesday:

Though the DACA amnesty is a break from President Trump’s campaign promises, in which he said, “There will be no amnesty” in August 2016, the legislation includes many of the president’s pro-American immigration principles by reducing legal immigration levels to raise Americans’ wages and dramatically reducing illegal immigration, not just through funding Trump’s proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Under the Goodlatte bill, E-Verify — the system that prevents employers from hiring illegal aliens over Americans — would be mandatory throughout the country, making it the first DACA-related legislation to include this provision.

“The vast majority of Republicans in the House can vote for this; it is common sense stuff, and it is what President Trump campaigned on and won on,” Rosemary Jenks, policy director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told Breitbart News on Wednesday.

Trump voters in the Republican primaries do not view as favorably other DACA bills under discussion, however.

“Senate Democrats claim they have developed a new bipartisan amnesty plan for young ‘dreamer’ illegals – but their plan also offers a quasi-amnesty to the illegal-immigrant parents who brought the 3.25 million ‘dreamer’ illegals into the United States,” Breitbart News reported on Thursday:

The amnesty-plus plan was developed by Sen. Dick Durbin, with the cooperation of several pro-amnesty GOP Senators, including Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner, Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina. The claims and details emerged Thursday when the Senators were questioned by reporters after the senators’ usual Thursday lunchtime meetings.

According to Politico, Flake told reporters that in their plan, “Dreamers would be able to obtain a three-year provisional legal status that could be renewed.” If so, the Democrats’ plan — aided by several Republicans — would be proving a huge amnesty-like benefit to the foreigners who created the illegal immigration problem.

Media reports also said the Democratic plan would eliminate the visa lottery — as required by Trump — but would then assign the green cards to another Democrat-favored group, the roughly 300,000 “Temporary Protect Status” migrants. The migrants are poor people from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and other disaster-prone undeveloped countries who have been given temporary permission to live in the United States. Their residency is now expiring because Trump’s deputies are refusing the extend the much-extended residency cards.

Flake also admitted to reporters that the Democrats’ have not agreed on a border security plan, which President Trump and the GOP is requiring — along with an end to chain migration and the visa-lottery — as part of any deal.

Depending on the speed at which Republican leaders in Congress move a DACA deal onto the legislative calendar and the political skills of the contenders on both sides of the issue, Republican members of Congress from at least eleven states–West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Missouri, New York, and Arizona–who are on the ballot in contested primaries may find themselves facing a difficult dilemma: do they vote in favor of a DACA deal many Trump voters may consider a betrayal and risk the wrath of primary voters, or do they vote against it in hopes of making it past the primary to face an energized Democratic opposition in the general election?

Here is a brief look at the Republican primary contests in seven of those eleven states:

West Virginia U.S. Senate Primary (May 8)

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV-03) is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia against State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for the right to meet incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in the November general election.

Jenkins had a 56 percent Heritage Action rating in the 114th Congress (2015-2016), placing him as one of the least conservative Republican members of the House of Representatives, a dramatic contrast to the very conservative Morrisey.

President Trump scored an overwhelming victory in West Virginia with his strong immigration control and border security promises.

In September polling, Manchin has a slight lead over both Republicans in head-to-head matchups.

A vote in favor of a DACA deal viewed by Trump supporters as a betrayal by Jenkins would likely hurt his chances of beating Morrisey in the primary.

The calendar, however, may work to Jenkins’ advantage, since a DACA deal vote may not make it to the House Floor–if it ever does–until some time after the May 8 primary.

North Carolina 9th Congressional District Primary (May 8)

Dr. Mark Harris, a pastor and conservative, is challenging Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC-09) in the Republican primary in this district.

In an October interview with Breitbart News Saturday on Sirius XM Patriot Channel 125, Harris said, “Robert Pittenger lost touch. … He’s joined the club. He’s not standing on the truest conservative principles. He’s not been effective, and he’s not a leader in the U.S. House.”

“Congress makes the law, and so President Trump is correct to ask Congress to fully review and act on the DACA issue,” Pittenger said in a statement after President Trump announced in September he was giving Congress six months to address the DACA issue in legislation.

“We must not facilitate ongoing subterfuge of strong immigration policy in any consideration of DACA. We must secure our border, eliminate sanctuary cities, and end efforts to shield illegal immigrants from the rule of law,” Pittenger said.

Mississippi U.S. Senate Primary (June 5)

Incumbent Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), an establishment ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), faces a likely challenge from State Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party favorite who narrowly lost a 2014 primary runoff election to Sen. Thad Cochran, another McConnell ally.

Wicker is likely to vote for any DACA deal McConnell presents, while McDaniel, if he decides to run, is likely to strongly oppose any DACA deal.

Nevada U.S. Senate Primary (June 12)

Incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), also an establishment ally of Sen. Majority Leader McConnell, faces a challenge from conservative Danny Tarkanian in the Republican primary.

Tarkanian is a strong supporter of President Trump’s immigration control and border security agenda, while Heller has been critical of the president’s positions.

NBC News reported in August:

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., distanced himself from President Donald Trump on several prominent policy issues in an interview with NBC News Monday, saying he opposes a government shutdown in order to secure funding for a border wall, does not support potential changes to protections for undocumented children and disagrees with the president’s pardoning of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The winner of the Republican primary in this key swing state will face a strong general election contest with the winner of the Democratic primary, where Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV-03) is the front runner.

In 2016, Rosen narrowly defeated Tarkanian in the election to represent Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District.

The Cook Political Report rates the general election a “Toss-Up.”

Tennessee U.S. Senate Primary (August 2)

In Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) holds a substantial lead over former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN-08) in the most recent poll of likely Republican primary voters, 58 percent to 11 percent in a state that Donald Trump won by 26 points and where likely Republican primary voters continue to support him by an 88 percent to 10 percent margin.

However, those same pro-Trump Republican primary voters oppose a DACA amnesty by a 61 percent to 15 percent margin. (The margin of opposition is 54 percent to 25 percent for all likely Republican primary voters.) So a “yes” vote on a DACA deal perceived as a betrayal of Trump’s campaign promises could pose a problem for Blackburn.

Tennessee Gubernatorial Primary (August 2)

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) currently leads a field of five in the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, ten points ahead of second place Randy Boyd, a wealthy Knoxville businessman. Black is the only candidate currently serving in Congress who would have to go on record if a DACA deal were brought to a vote.

Arizona U.S. Senate Primary (August 28)

Arizona, the state with the third-highest number of DACA recipients, has the Republican Senate primary where the outcome of congressional DACA negotiations is likely to play the most significant role.

One candidate, Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ-02), has been assigned a leading role in the development of DACA legislation.

Another candidate who announced this week, 85-year old former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is well known for his hardcore views on immigration control, on border security, his conviction last year on criminal contempt of court, and President Trump’s pardon of that conviction.

A third candidate, Dr. Kelli Ward, unsuccessfully challenged Sen. John McCain in the 2016 GOP primary.

“A Tuesday poll from ABC15/OHPI shows Joe Arpaio skyrocketing to the top of the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate in Arizona,” ABC 15 reported:

The poll, conducted the same day Arpaio announced his Senate run, shows the former sheriff with 29% of the vote, a statistical tie with first place candidate Martha McSally at 31%.

Former state senator Kelli Ward, who has been the front runner in recent polls, drops to 25% in this latest survey.

The poll mirrors initial speculation that Arpaio could edge out Ward and create an opening for McSally, who colleagues have said is planning a Senate run but has not yet made an announcement.

Arpaio takes an even more notable jump when considering hypothetical endorsements that candidates may receive.

In the survey, a Trump endorsement for Arpaio bumps him up to 35% of the vote, while a McSally endorsement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brings her to 31%. Ward falls to 13% with a potential endorsement from former Trump strategist Steve Bannon.

The winner of the GOP primary is expected to face the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-09), a sponsor of the DREAM Act, in the November general election.

New York 11th Congressional District Primary (September 11)

Former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY-11), now a convicted felon, is challenging incumbent Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-NY-11) in the Republican primary, basing much of his campaign on a strong pro-Trump agenda.

In November, in a town hall meeting, a high school student confronted Donovan and demanded he support a “clean” DACA bill.

Shortly after that incident, “Patrick Ryan, a spokesman for Donovan said, ‘Knowing who comes in and out of our country is a basic responsibility of government, and reforming the immigration system is pointless unless we stop illegal entries. Congressman Donovan fully supports border security funding,’ SILive.com reported, adding:

Ryan noted that the congressman voted to authorize $10 billion for a border wall last month.

He co-sponsored Recognizing America’s Children Act — or RACA — which provides a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and want to remain in schools here or to work.

The Democratic strongholds of Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, as well as the “swing state” of New Hampshire, also hold primaries in September.

After the primary winners are determined, the next unknown will be: how will the resolution of the DACA situation effect turnout of both parties in the November general election, and will it portend the “Blue Wave” so many in the mainstream media have been predicting.

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