WASHINGTON – Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand today announced her opposition to the bipartisan budget deal that aims to stave off a government shutdown, saying she cannot support any such legislation that doesn't protect the "Dreamers," young undocumented immigrants brought to America by their parents.
“I have made it clear that I won’t vote for any long-term spending deal that doesn’t include protections for our Dreamers," Gillibrand, a New York Democrat and possible 2020 presidential candidate, said in a statement. "Republican leadership has refused to do the morally right thing by protecting the young people who know only this country as their home. We shouldn’t allow our young people to be used as bargaining chips in this country."
Gillibrand's decision puts her at odds with her New York colleague, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat who negotiated the two-year budget deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
Yet Gillibrand's move allies her with liberal Democrats who have put a premium on legislation protecting the Dreamers. President Trump has canceled an Obama-era program aimed at giving those immigrants temporary legal protection, which expires March 5.
Trump has also called on Congress to come up with a permanent solution for the Dreamers, but talks on the issue between the White House and Congress reached an impasse that led to a brief government shutdown earlier in late January.
The Schumer-McConnell budget deal separated the Dreamer issue from the budget process, leading to anger among advocates for those young immigrants.
"Chuck Schumer has failed to be the strategist we need to win," Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream, said in a statement Wednesday.
Schumer Thursday lauded the budget deal as one that would help New York in innumerable ways: through more money for infrastructure, health care, veterans hospitals and military bases, as well as policy changes aimed at boosting the dairy industry.
But in her statement, Gillibrand made clear that she is putting a premium on the Dreamers as well as New Yorkers.
"I believe senators on both sides of the aisle should fight for these kids as hard as we would fight for our own families," she said.