US congressional leaders reached a two-year budget deal to increase government spending by nearly $300 billion on Friday morning. The move is seen as a major victory for both parties as it could prevent a government shutdown by the end of the week.
Radio Sputnik discussed this with Westy Egmont, director of the Immigrant Integration Lab at Boston College, because of the prominence of so-called Dreamers, or Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, would-be beneficiaries of a program designed to give immigrant children a path to permanent residence in the United States, in the budget’s negotiations.
Sputnik: How important is this budget deal for both parties and do you feel like one of the two factions got a better deal?
Westy Egmont: It is certainly a relief to the American economy to have a deal struck, and one of the things that we can appreciate is that there are a lot of other elements besides immigration. But my focus is on immigration and I understand that we needed to have the government function, we needed not to punish the government employees by having them out of work and make the government dysfunctional any more than it is. A deal struck is a deal struck. Certainly, one of the things that is a great concern is that immigration and Dreamers particularly have been used as a political pawn. There was a great effort to have the stand-alone bill, and that was to have a clean bill, because as long as it is tied up in a negotiation over the federal debt levels and issues they are trying to compromise on our federal bill, the immigration issues got secured in some very odd and distorted ways.
Sputnik: What kind of impact is this really going to have, going forward?
Westy Egmont: The United States has had a very unusual drama acted out, for the Republican Party has always prided [itself] as being smaller government and the party of fiscal restraint, and here they are putting the United States in deeper and deeper debt; a high-gamble proposition that somehow they are stimulating the economy enough to make up for these large debt plans that are being advanced and approved.
Sputnik: What about immigration, that was the big sticking point for the Democrats. What do you think about how this is going to affect immigration policy going forward?
Westy Egmont: I do think that there is going to be a bill that will come out of the Senate deal that was struck and we will see something come forward from the leadership. [US Senator Chuck] Schumer’s comments are correct that we will see something that comes really soon that will represent a bipartisan effort because we’ve seen a bill advanced just before the threatened government shutdown. So there is a bipartisan bill and they sent it as a basis for some discussion.
Obviously, there are some interesting and diverse elements to it. On the House [of Representatives] side we’ll see something that will have a lot more fiscal challenges and expenses associated with it, as we talk about many millions of dollars being put toward a wall and other elements that will go toward a protection strategy. But it has also been more generous than the current bill by being more inclusive of those who would be given assistance, opportunity, who are Dreamers — we’re talking about over 1.8 million people now. That’s a very positive element for the discussion. If that stays in the front and center, there will certainly be some compromises to try to do something that both parties that would support the Dreamers and give them a pathway to citizenship and an opportunity to become part of the America that they already feel very much a part of.
Sputnik: How do you see these two concepts working together — Dreamers and the border wall?
Westy Egmont: I think what’s likely is that the 150 people that make up Freedom Caucus, the conservative side of the House, is going to give the president a very hard time on going forward to doing anything that they consider to be wrong-based values. I think the House is going to be divided in a way that’s going to force a lot of difficult decision making. So they are going to have to have a compromise bill that ultimately will appease all of these competing interests seeking to find a very balanced — in the Republican sense of balance — action.