Republicans would face a backlash from not only advocates for minorities but also figures such as former CIA director and defense secretary Robert M. Gates, who wrote on Wednesday:

The United States faces extraordinary security challenges that are placing growing pressure on our armed forces. Those forces are stronger when they embody the nation’s diversity, drawing from a large pool of willing young people able to adapt to changing threats. That is why we need legislation that will provide a pathway to citizenship for those immigrants who, among other attributes, are serving or have served in the military, whether they are in America legally or were brought here illegally as children. That kind of policy will help the military recruit new service members and improve readiness. . . .

More than 800 so-called Dreamers who received temporary authorization to stay and work in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, recently revoked by President Trump, are now serving in the armed forces. They are able to serve because of a program I authorized in 2008 aimed at recruiting immigrants with medical, foreign language or other specialized skills. The program was extended when we found that these recruits had lower attrition rates than other recruits and, in particular, contributed invaluable language skills to Special Operations units. More than 350 additional DACA recipients have signed contracts with the Army and are awaiting basic training. If Congress fails to act, these recruits’ permits will expire. They will not be eligible to serve and will instead be at risk of deportation.

Republicans will get painted not only by Democrats but also by fellow Republicans as heartless racists whoalso are weak on national security. That should terrify even Republicans who won comfortably in 2016.

In short, Democrats have remarkable leverage now to demand DACA get done this year. They should pull their GOP colleagues aside and remind them how Trump and Ed Gillespie’s anti-immigrant rhetoric played in Virginia. By bucking Trump on this and demanding an immediate resolution, Republicans could not only demonstrate some independence but also take a nightmarish issue off the table. Sure, Ryan and Trump want to put off a vote on the “dreamers,” but why should endangered Republicans stick with them, risk never getting a vote and then be swept away by a further energized Democratic coalition in November 2018? Republicans should wise up and start participating in their own political preservation.