WASHINGTON — Don’t look to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono to strike a cheery note when talking about the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama era program that blocked young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” from deportation.

President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that his administration was ending DACA, saying his predecessor, Barack Obama, didn’t have the legal authority to create it in the first place.

That decision put the lives of nearly 700,000 young people with DACA protections in legal limbo, including about 600 or so who live in Hawaii.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono calls for action on DACA during a Capitol Hill press conference.

Nick Grube/Civil Beat

“When it comes to negotiating with this administration there’s not that much hope because we’ve already seen the president go back on his word time and time again with regards to protecting the dreamers,” Hirono said in an interview with Civil Beat.

“This is why I emphasize the importance of the continued independence of our courts, even as the president tries to pack those courts with all these ideologically oriented judges.”

On Thursday, amid a flurry of breaking news — from the death of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings to the announcement of a ceasefire in Syria to the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry — Hirono and several of her Democratic colleagues called for permanent protections for dreamers.

They held a press conference on Capitol Hill along with several plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Trump’s DACA decision, a case that’s scheduled for oral argument on Nov. 12 before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Among those joining Hirono were U.S. Sens Dick Durbin, Jacky Rosen and Ron Wyden, all of whom signed on to a legal brief opposing the Trump administration’s action to rescind DACA.

Together, they urged DACA recipients to continue renewing their applications so that they can maintain the protections they have while waiting for the high court to rule.

Durbin said it was a “long shot” that Congress would broker a deal while Trump was in office, pointing to the president’s past rejection of a bipartisan effort earlier in the year while negotiating for more money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

He also noted that a House bill to protect dreamers has already stalled in the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority.

That means any hope for dreamers resides with the conservative leaning high court.

“I think we have a chance to prevail,” Durbin said. “If we don’t prevail, God forbid, I’m hoping that there would be some emergency action taken in congress.”

Hirono said during Thursday’s press conference that she hopes the justices “do the right thing.”

Support local journalism

Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.

About the Author