Originally published by Politico
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to end protections for young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, Cecilia Muñoz wants Democrats to forget about passing broader immigration reform.
Instead, she says, Congress needs to concentrate on passing the DREAM Act.
If I thought there were an opportunity to pass a broader immigration bill, I’d be pushing for a broader immigration bill. I don’t think we have that opportunity, realistically, Muñoz, former President Barack Obama’s chief domestic policy adviser, told POLITICO editor Carrie Budoff Brown in the latest episode of the Women Rule podcast. Stay focused on the DREAM Act. It’s going to be challenging to get that done.
Muñoz predicted that the DREAM Act – a bill that would provide a path to permanent legal status for Dreamers – could be passed in as little as three months. That’s well within the six-month time frame Trump gave Congress to legislate a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
The DREAM Act is well-known. Its terms are well-established, added Muñoz, who helped craft Obama’s strategy around DACA. And if it doesn’t happen, you have a catastrophe.
It’s a goal that seems to align with recent White House thinking. On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Trump had privately signaled to her that he would sign the DREAM Act.
For Muñoz, who now works on technology and policy issues at progressive think tank New America, the fight to save DACA is one marked by a personal, profound sadness. But on the Women Rule podcast, she also opened up about how her stages of grief eventually arrived at anger.
In the latest episode, Muñoz recalled the lengthy West Wing deliberations that led to Obama’s executive action that created DACA, and the political landmines it entailed for the Democratic Party. The wide-ranging interview also touched on Muñoz’s journey from the world of immigration advocacy to the White House – and what advice she would give to women of color navigating Washington.
More highlights from the podcast:
2:37 Muñoz discusses Trump’s ugly decision to end DACA and what the Democrats can realistically do to save Dreamers from deportation.
We have to seize the legislative moment, she tells Women Rule. It’s difficult to assess the likelihood of action in a Congress which can barely get up in the morning. But the pressure on them to act is going to be very high, and I think it’s entirely possible.
9:00 Muñoz recounts how Obama, after years of saying he did not have the authority to act on immigration enforcement, finally took executive action with DACA in 2012 – and what the political costs were.
Politically, she says, we had no idea how it was going to go over. There’s a big difference, potentially even with Democrats, between passing something legislatively and using executive authority to do something of this size.
Muñoz cautions that Obama now can do only so much for Dreamers.
I think of this as people thinking of President Obama as being vested with magical powers, that if he were to just engage with his eloquence, everything would change, she says. Nobody is more skeptical about that than President Obama himself.
16:25 Muñoz weighs in with lessons she learned from her time in the White House – and what frustrated her most about advocating for immigration reform in the West Wing.
Folks pivoted early to executive action and gave up on Congress, frankly, early, she said of grass-roots advocates. Sooner than they should have.
17:50 The former White House adviser discusses her current work at progressive think tank New America, where she’s the vice president of policy and technology and heads up the group’s National Network of Local Innovators.
19:53 Muñoz, once the highest-ranking Latina in the Obama administration, discusses her fear of failure – and how to overcome it in such a public sphere. She recalls being tested as the Latina in the room and recounts how her decision-making often seemed to be evaluated: We’re going to ask for her input, and we wonder, is she going to be an advocate or is she going to put the good of the team and the overall initiative first?
26:40 Muñoz weighs in on the future of the Democratic Party and the possibility of having a woman at the top of the ticket in 2020. She says she was shocked at the level of misogyny in the 2016 campaign but holds out hope that it won’t prevent the nomination of another female Democratic presidential candidate.
31:31 Her one piece of advice to young people of color: You know stuff that the rest of this town doesn’t know by virtue of who you are and where you come from. Don’t ever devalue tha
Read more: www.politico.com/story/2017/09/13/how-democrats-can-save-dreamers-242632
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