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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Editorial: Foot-dragging on DACA is cruel

In the surreal world of legislating in the nation’s capital, urgent issues aren’t given consideration until the very last minute.

And so it is with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which faces a March deadline. Democrats tried to force action on the issue this week, but to no avail.

“I don’t think the Democrats would be very smart to say they want to shut down the government over a non-emergency that we can address anytime between now and March,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “There is no crisis.”

On Thursday, Congress passed a stopgap bill that will keep government running for the rest of this year, averting a shutdown ahead of today’s deadline. It wasn’t that long ago that this would be an odd way to run the government, but now it’s the norm.

We never want a government shutdown over a single issue. It was a disaster when Republicans did it over the Affordable Care Act, and it would be irresponsible to do it over DACA.

However, Sen. McConnell’s casual comment is insensitive to the families whose lives are in a stomach-churning state of uncertainty. “Anytime between now and March” disguises the turmoil and the long history of foot-dragging.

President Trump set the six-month deadline in September after Congress failed to act. A compassionate government would’ve settled this long ago.

DACA allows people who entered the country illegally before their 16th birthday to work or pursue higher education without fear of deportation if they have not committed serious crimes and have attended school or joined the military. They are in the country through no fault of their own and have little or no connection to their birthplaces.

A contingent of leaders from Washington State University told the editorial board this week that this is a significant issue on college campuses, and they are frustrated because there isn’t anything they can do to relieve the stress of DACA students and their families.

(The travel ban on specific Muslim-majority countries is another immigration issue that is having a deleterious effect on college campuses.)

DACA itself was born of congressional inaction. President Barack Obama adopted it after Congress failed to pass the Dream Act, which would’ve resolved the issue four years ago.

An estimated 800,000 young people who were brought to this country illegally by their parents have benefited. Ending DACA and deporting nearly 700,000 workers would result in a $460 billion hit to the nation’s gross national product over the first decade, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Washington state would experience an annual GDP drain of about $1 billion. In Idaho, it would be $155 million.

Trump gave Congress six months to solve the issue, or else. Congressional leaders seem willing to wait until the final hour.

That isn’t just bad leadership; it’s downright cruel.