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SCOTUS decision gives Congress reprieve on DACA legislation

But the contentious issue isn't going away
Image: Temporary Protected Status
A woman holds up a sign that reads "Defend DACA Defend TPS" during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside the White House on Sept. 4, 2017 in Washington.Carolyn Kaster / AP file

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at this point has given Congress a reprieve on an issue that has tied up Washington for months.

After the decision was announced Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan indicated that there was less urgency to address the program, known as DACA.

“While the court’s decision appears to have pushed this deadline beyond March, House Republicans are actively working toward a solution,” Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said in an email.

Congress had been facing a March 5 deadline, imposed by President Donald Trump, to find a permanent solution for DACA recipients before their legal status would expire.

The Trump administration appealed two lower courts’ injunctions that have kept DACA in place, but Supreme Court justices wanted the case to continue its journey through the lower courts before they would consider a hearing.

Giving the courts time to finish hearing the case and any subsequent appeals could push back any legislative deadline beyond the November midterm elections.

But it doesn’t mean that the sometimes bitter fight on immigration, which has contributed to a government shutdown this year, is going away.

Some argue that the high court’s decision doesn't lessen the urgency.

"I hope we still treat it as the deadline and get something done," Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said. "But in reality, I think some people will say, 'Well, the pressure's off.' I hope that's not the case."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that the court could act at any moment.

"The deadline could be any day if the court of appeals rescinds the order," he said. "This reprieve is very temporary and uncertain."

As the Senate returns from a ten day break, some senators are still plotting on how to move forward but there's still little clarity. And Democrats are laying the blame at the feet of the president.

“Now it’s up to the president and Republican leaders in Congress to take yes for an answer and accept any of the six bipartisan solutions on the table to save these young people," said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Congress has been unable to find a solution for the 700,000 recipients of DACA — the Obama-era program that temporarily protected from deportation people brought to this country illegally as children — or the around 1.8 million Dreamers who are eligible.

The Senate failed this month to pass any of a series of proposals that would have given many Dreamers a permanent legal status.

The president’s proposal, which received the least support in the Senate — just 39 votes — would have also included $25 billion in border security, an end to the diversity visa lottery and a massive reduction in legal immigration by limiting family-based immigration. Other, more narrowly tailored bills received a majority of support, but none garnered the 60 votes necessary to clear Senate procedure.

The House of Representatives has yet to take up its own legislation. Conservatives are pushing legislation by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., that has been unable to gain the support of enough Republicans to pass. It is even further to the right than Trump’s plan by making DACA recipients reapply for legal status every three years and withholds federal funding for cities that don’t require local law enforcement to notify federal immigration officials of a person’s legal status, also known as sanctuary cities.

“We continue to pursue support for the Goodlatte legislation to address DACA and the underlying causes so we’re not facing this problem again down the line,” Ryan’s spokeswoman, Strong, said in a statement.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that regardless of the Supreme Court’s reprieve, Republicans should act.

“Republicans’ shameful refusal to take action means that every day, Dreamers are forced to live in limbo, with their well-being, futures and status at risk,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that Supreme Court decision could be helpful, allowing senators to "cool off."

"It could actually help by giving us a little more time," Graham told reporters.