House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., is shown on television as she speaks from the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, as a news conference that she was supposed to attend goes on in the background. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., is shown on television as she speaks from the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, as a news conference that she was supposed to attend goes on in the background. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

By STEVE PEOPLES and ALAN FRAM

Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — On the eve of another shutdown deadline, immigration activists joined liberal leaders Wednesday in threatening political retribution against congressional Democrats who ignore young immigrants in a massive spending deal.
The fresh threats exposed deepening divisions within a Democratic Party struggling to address a liberal priority in Republican-controlled Washington.
"I'm not a loyal Democrat," Linda Sarsour, a political activist who co-chaired the 2017 Women's March, declared during a fiery rally near Capitol Hill. "We will be joining primaries this year and we will primary Democrats who did not have the spine or the courage to stand up for our undocumented family."
The activists who filled a Washington church Wednesday, like liberal leaders nationwide, called out House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer by name just as Senate negotiators unveiled a massive spending deal that did not address the fate of young immigrants known as "dreamers."
Some scoffed at Pelosi's hours-long speech Wednesday on the House floor, intended to elicit a promise from House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a vote on subsequent legislation to protect the younger immigration. Ryan's promise, activists noted, was far from a guarantee.
"What are they thinking? They're giving up their leverage," said a frustrated Angel Padilla, policy director for the liberal group Indivisible. "All of these votes will matter come November."
Pelosi wore four-inch heels and a spotless cream jacket as she delivered her epic House speech. After more than six hours without a break, the clearest signs of weariness were an occasional quiver in her voice, a stumble over her words and a case of the sniffles.
"You see, these people are being deported," she said, taking out a tissue. "We can do something today to at least make whole the children."
At issue is the fate of roughly 1.8 million immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Many of the so-called "dreamers" will lose protection from deportation — granted by the Obama administration in 2014 and rescinded by Trump last fall — in the coming weeks.
No issue is more important to the Democratic Party's most passionate voters, who insist their party must reject any budget deal that doesn't protect the young immigrants — even if it means risking a second government shutdown this year. The federal government will shutter non-essential operations Thursday at midnight unless Congress passes a spending plan.



It's unclear whether the liberal outrage will sink the two-year, nearly $400 budget deal unveiled Wednesday that would provide Pentagon and domestic programs with huge spending increases. Schumer praised the agreement for providing needed funding for health, drug abuse and social service programs, having dropped his push to use the budget talks to extract concessions on immigration.
The criticism resonated with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, such as Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., who said the Latino community thinks Senate Democratic leadership "has turned their back on them."
"It's not being made a priority," Barragan said of the party's push to protect those enrolled in the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. "It's a mistake to not use every leverage point we have."
Hispanic caucus members and many other Democrats made clear to Pelosi earlier Wednesday that "we would not support a budget caps deal unless we had some clarity about what would happen to Dreamers," said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz. They insisted, he added, on DACA language in the budget deal — or some guarantee that the issue would be addressed.
Yet there were no signs that Pelosi's leadership team was pushing rank-and-file Democrats to oppose the Senate deal without a DACA fix.
Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., a member of House leadership, did not answer when asked why Pelosi's team didn't have a "whip team" to defeat the Senate proposal. And at least some House Democrats indicated they would support it.
"As much as I believe in DACA, we shouldn't close the government when it looks like we're moving toward resolution of all of these problems," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., who said he was backing the budget deal and predicted it would pass.
The lack of a unified Democratic strategy infuriated liberal leaders, who have spent recent weeks intensifying pressure on Democrats to use what little leverage they had in the Republican-controlled Congress to protect dreamers.
"This is a moral fight that Democratic leadership is failing on. That's something that's going to have long-term implications," said Murshed Zaheed, political director for the progressive group CREDO.
Should Pelosi fail to unify House Democrats against the deal, he added, "it's going to be another strike against her effectiveness as leader of the caucus."
Democrats and Republicans "face a fundamental choice" on whether to protect dreamers, said Ben Wikler, Washington director for the liberal group MoveOn.
"There will be a reckoning," he warned.
The disappointment extended to DACA recipients like 26-year-old Edwin Romero, of Dallas, who was born in Mexico and brought to the United States at the age of 6.
"So far we have seen that the Democrats failed the immigrant youth community," Romero charged. He added, "We are tired of false promises and words. We want action."
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Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Luis Alonso Lugo contributed to this report.