While Democrats and immigration advocates were rebuffed by the hard-line immigration proposals unveiled this week by the White House, reports suggest they still see a chance to force Republicans' hand on legislation to help young 'Dreamers' – persons brought to the country illegally as children.
Their focus will be a spending bill that Congress will need to pass in December in order to keep the US government open. Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, may need Democratic votes to approve the legislation because of divisions within their party over fiscal restraint.
Democrats are considering insisting on help for the Dreamers as their price for providing the votes that may be required to prevent a government shutdown, reports Reuters. Republican President Donald Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme last month that protected the Dreamers, and gave Congress six months to find a solution.
"This is all heading towards a December deal on Dreamers as part of an omnibus or spending package," Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a liberal-leaning immigration advocacy group, told Reuters.
"If Trump … says, 'No deal unless I get everything,' there won't be many if any Democratic votes for a spending package that excludes Dreamers."
According to The Washington Post, Congress should step in and resolve the plight of these nearly young immigrants – estimated to number from 700,000 to 800,000 - most of them brought to this country illegally by their parents as children, whose protection from the threat of deportation will lapse next year owing to Trump's decision to rescind President Barack Obama's DACA programme.
House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told The Washington Post on Monday she did not rule out withholding Democratic support for the spending bill if needed to obtain a deal to protect the Dreamers in the United States.
The White House on Sunday released a list of demands to Congress, including funding for a border wall; a constriction of long-standing rules governing legal immigration; a crackdown on minors from Central America who enter the country illegally; tools to prevent employers from hiring undocumented immigrants; and other priorities of Republican hardliners.
Asked about the possibility of including action on Dreamers in the spending measure, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the administration was not focused on the implementation process at the moment but would get into that at meetings this week after releasing the president's priorities on Sunday night.
In December, Trump and Congress face the expiration of a three-month deal struck on 8 September to prevent a government shutdown.
That surprise deal between Trump and congressional Democrats maintained federal government funding at levels then in place until 8 December. Another stopgap bill will likely be needed to replace that, setting up further fiscal and legislative drama in Washington.
Republican leaders in the House have struggled in recent years to get a consensus within their party on budget deals. Members of the conservative Freedom Caucus have often demanded deep budget cuts unpalatable to more moderate Republicans.
If enough Republican lawmakers break ranks on the budget, House leaders would need Democratic votes to help make up the difference and avoid a government shutdown.