Will Racke, DCNF
A group of Republican senators will introduce Monday a bill that hews closely to President Donald Trump’s framework for an immigration reform package and adds additional border security measures aimed at winning the support of skeptical conservatives.
The proposal is one of several expected this week as lawmakers introduce competing bills to codify the soon-to-expire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Trump ended the Obama-era executive amnesty, which gives certain younger illegal immigrants a reprieve from deportation, last year and gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a replacement.
The new proposal from Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, James Lankford, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst essentially mirrors what the White House has proposed for a DACA package. It offers a path to citizenship to 1.8 million younger illegal immigrants after the completion of a 12-year probationary period, with credit for time as a DACA beneficiary, according to a summary from Grassley’s office
In exchange, the Republican bill sets up a $25 billion trust fund for a 10-year border security plan to include “tactical infrastructure” and enhanced surveillance technology. The proposal also shuts down the green card lottery and reallocates the program’s 55,000 annual visas to pare down the family and employment-based immigrant visa backlog, which today stands at more than 4 million applicants.
The most contentious part of the bill involves eventually doing away with some family-based visa categories, a proposal that has no support on the Democratic side of the aisle. Like the White House framework, the bill would limit chain migration to the spouses and minor children of immigrants.
To soften the chain migration provisions, the Grassley bill grandfathers in all of the family visa applicants currently on the waiting list. The plan also allows the parents of U.S. citizens to receive renewable five-year nonimmigrant visas that do not include work authorization.
Cotton said Sunday the bill is the only Republican proposal that offers DACA recipients a path to citizenship while also would also winning Trump’s approval.
“This is the only bill that has a chance of becoming law, and that’s because it’s the only bill that will truly solve the underlying problem,” he said in a statement. “It will protect those eligible for DACA but also make sure we don’t end up back here five years from now.”
Whether any Senate Democrats would come on board is another question. Thus far, Democrats have refused to entertain any limits on chain migration or the green card lottery as a part of a DACA deal, agreeing only to additional funding for border security.
The Grassley bill also contains several immigration enforcement provisions desired by conservatives but likely to meet resistance from Democrats. Notably, it tacks on Kate’s Law, which enhances penalties for illegal immigrants who re-enter the U.S. after being deported. The House passed Kate’s Law last year, but the bill has not come up for a Senate vote.
Some Republicans see the Grassley bill as representative of the position favored by a coalition that includes the White House and conservative lawmakers.
“There’s a lot of interest in our caucus on the president’s proposal, because it’s leaning pretty forward on where our guys have been on a path to citizenship,” said Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, according to Politico. “But it also gets a lot of components that our folks would like to see addressed.”
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