Democrats and Republicans were able to raise a self-congratulatory toast to themselves last week, with conservatives and liberals alike falling over themselves to boast about a two-year budget deal that would plunge the country further into debt and eliminate the prospect of government shutdowns until we are on the cusp of the next presidential election.

Seemingly lost in the backslapping and self-congratulations was any discussion about DACA, a principled hill on which Democrats had once seemed ready to die. Somewhere in the legislative shuffle, however, those covered by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals apparently became a political liability rather than a cause célèbre.

In announcing the DACA policy on June 15, 2012, then-President Barack Obama stressed that there were limits to the program and that he never intended it to become the law of the land, saying, "This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people."

He then urged Congress to develop a lasting legal solution, but despite heated rhetoric and some degree of legislative wrangling, the issue remains unsettled. Many conservatives railed against the policy as tantamount to providing citizenship to these individuals, while liberals argued that it did not go nearly far enough, as it merely kicked the proverbial can down the road. So instead of taking up the policy in any serious way, politicians on both ends of the political spectrum have been content to use the DACA dilemma as a political football, hopeful that they could score points with their base without ever having to commit themselves one way or the other.

What the program did do was grant young people who had entered the United States illegally with an opportunity to apply for a work permit without fearing deportation. During the five years that DACA was in place, approximately 800,000 young people signed up to participate in it.

Then, fulfilling one of his many campaign promises, President Donald Trump abruptly ended DACA on June 16, 2017. He used a tool for which he frequently derided Obama – an executive order that effectively gave Congress six months to develop a permanent solution.

That clock runs out on March 6.

In the months since his executive order, Trump has made conflicting statements regarding what he would accept as a solution to the DACA question. Then, in January, a bipartisan group of senators approached the president with a proposal that would have made DACA the law of the land, offering a route to citizenship for qualified applicants. The same bill would have earmarked a bit over $2.7 billion for border security and eliminated the visa lottery, something that conservatives have been working toward for years.

Trump flatly rejected the idea.

Then, earlier this month, another bipartisan coalition of senators offered up a new proposal that combined a path to citizenship with enhanced border security.

Trump flatly rejected that idea as well.

In between the two proposals, Democrats, in the form of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, declared that they would not vote for any budget plan that did not include a commitment to act on the DACA program. It played good in the media, with the Democratic leadership feigning the moral high ground. That commitment collapsed three days into a government shutdown, when the Democratic high command capitulated and accepted a feeble promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would bring the matter up in a future session. The fact that House Speaker Paul Ryan made no such corresponding commitment did not seem to faze Democrats in the least.

Now the president has come out with his own plan. Trump’s proposal would provide a 10-year to 12-year path to citizenship for approximately 1.8 million individuals who are in the country illegally, a surprising move considering his repeated campaign promises and post-election anti-immigrant statements. In return, he wants Congress to create a $25 billion trust fund for enhanced border security, including his long-promised wall between Mexico and the United States, a hallmark of his 2016 presidential campaign.

Of course, virtually every Democrat in Congress has gone on record opposing a new border wall and the alt-right wing of the Republican Party, usually Trump’s most earnest cheerleaders, has begun to rail against him for even mentioning a potential pathway to citizenship.

Nevertheless, it is going to take compromise on both sides, and it is time to stop playing with the lives and futures of more than a million people.