Our Children’s Welfare Makes a Great Bargaining Chip

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Bargaining Chips
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The welfare of children and families is not a partisan issue. At least, it shouldn’t be.

And yet, beginning Jan. 19 the United States experienced a three-day government shutdown. While politicians on both sides refused to come to an agreement on a proposed budget, decisions on important, family-focused, child-centric issues such as DACA and CHIP were put on hold.

DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program put into place by former President Barack Obama, has allowed approximately 800,000 children of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States without fear of deportation. President Donald Trump ended it in September 2017.

CHIP, the state Children’s Health Insurance Program, provides health insurance to nearly 9 million eligible children in families whose income is too high to qualify for Medicaid. Both programs were held hostage as part of the failed spending bill voted on by the Senate on Jan. 19.

Besides continuing to leave the Dreamers and CHIP recipients in limbo, the government shutdown had a profound effect on many American military families.

While the government is shut down, military members are still required to work, and they won’t be paid without an amendment to the short-term spending bill. Late on Jan. 19, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) proposed the necessary amendment “for continuing appropriations for pay and death benefits for members of the armed forces.” But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, saying on CSPAN, “My hope is that we can restore funding for the entire government before this becomes necessary.”

The administration’s lack of support for children and families is not consistent with the clear wishes of many American people.

According to USA Today, the majority of Americans feel the shutdown shouldn’t have happened. In a Jan. 24 story, they reported results of a Quinnipiac University poll that revealed that “84 percent of voters called the three-day government shutdown ‘mainly unnecessary.’” In the same article, the assistant director of the poll, Tim Malloy, was quoted as saying, “There was still ‘consistent, strong support’ for action to help DREAMers, with 75 percent of people saying they supported legislation.”

A November 2017 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “when asked about a series of things that President Trump and Congress might try to do in the coming months, about six in ten of respondents said reauthorizing funding for CHIP (62 percent) and providing funding for places in the U.S. affected by hurricanes (61 percent) should each be a ‘top priority.’”

Fortunately, 2018’s three-day government shutdown was short in comparison to the 16-day shutdown in 2013, and on Monday, Jan. 22, Congress passed a spending bill that would fund the government for three weeks. It would also guarantee CHIP funding for the next six years and guarantee military families their pay—at least until Feb. 8. So for families who depend on the CHIP program for health insurance, the agreement has brought relief. And for military families who were trying to plan for a missing or delayed paycheck, there has been a short respite.

But still, there is no solution for DACA recipients. CBS News reported on Jan. 23 that “Senate Democrats agreed to the short-term spending bill to reopen the government in order to continue negotiating a longer-term spending bill, and they secured a commitment from Republican leaders that if there isn’t a deal addressing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by the Feb. 8 expiration of the short-term spending bill, the Senate will immediately proceed to legislation dealing with DACA and immigration.”

On Monday, Feb. 5, CNN reported that a bipartisan bill is being introduced “that would grant eventual citizenship to young undocumented immigrants who have been in the country since 2013 and came to the U.S. as children.” However, because the bill does not address other immigration issues, including the border wall, that Trump considers “priorities,” he has spoken against the bill on Twitter, saying that “Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time. March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!”

According to Politico, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said a temporary extension of DACA may be what happens instead. CNN reported that DACA will “get full Senate floor consideration the week of Feb. 12.” Lawmakers were scheduled to start voting on the latest DACA proposal on Feb.15. But a vote doesn’t guarantee passage, and the White House has issued a veto threat.

On Feb. 26 the Supreme Court ended the suspense for a few months. The high court refused to hear the Trump administration’s request to fast-track killing DACA immediately and opted to first let the case work its way through the lower courts. The case is not likely to be heard until fall.

Meanwhile, the DREAMer’s and their families wait yet again for a long-term solution while politicians hold their children’s welfare hostage to force their own agendas.

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