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Immigration proposals clash in Senate as Congress prepares to take break

TRUMP IMMIGRANT RIGHT DACA
MARK RALSTON / AFP
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Trump won't budge, says one Senate supporter, and House won't vote on bills not considered having White House support

As a March 5 deadline looms on the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for children who were brought into the United States illegally, Congress is scrambling to find an immigration reform bill that will please a number of different interests.

Legislators are about to go on a week-long recess. Senators cannot find agreement on a reform bill, and members of the House of Representatives will not be allowed to vote on any bill that is not seen as having the full support of the president.

A Senate bipartisan group, which calls itself the Common Sense Coalition, reached agreement Wednesday on a bill that would appropriate $25 billion for border security, including construction of a wall at the Mexican border, over a 10-year period—not immediately, as President Trump insists, the New York Times reported. It would also offer an eventual path to citizenship, over 10 to 12 years, for 1.8 million of the young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” but would preclude them from sponsoring their parents to become citizens. It would make no changes to the diversity visa lottery system, which Trump wants to end.

But Trump urged senators to oppose any bill that did not also embrace the “four pillars” he outlined in his State of the Union address: a lasting solution to the DACA problem, ending “chain migration,” cancelling the visa lottery, and securing the border with a wall and closing legal loopholes.

Instead, the president is pushing a measure put forward by Sen Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, which would provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants, end the visa lottery program, build a border wall and severely limit family-based immigration that the president and others refer to as “chain migration” and Democrats prefer to call “family reunification.” The Grassley bill also would increase the use of radar and tower-based surveillance, sensors and drones along the Southwest border, increase the number of border patrol agents and deploy the National Guard to help construct border fencing and operate some of the surveillance equipment, the Times reported.

The Common Sense Coalition’s proposal has the support of at least 16 Senators—well short of the 60 needed for it to pass, National Public Radio reported on Thursday.

Another measure, offered by Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del., calls for legalization for “Dreamers,” and more border security. It would not directly finance construction of a border wall.

A statement from the Department of Homeland Security criticized the bill as a “mass legalization” measure, however.

“The McCain-Coons proposal would increase illegal immigration, surge chain migration, continue catch-and-release and give a pathway to citizenship to convicted alien felons,” the statement said.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., a close ally of President Trump, said he doesn’t expect the White House to budge and support anything less than the Grassley bill, according to NPR.

“If you do something much narrower than what we’ve got proposed, you’ll be right back here in four or five years doing the same thing again with another wave,” Perdue said. “If you don’t break the chain migration issue, you’re going to be back here because you’re reinstating another wave of parents who will smuggle their kids in illegally.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says he will only bring up legislation that has Trump’s full support, NPR noted.

 

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