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February 5, 2018 – Last night the Wall Street Journal reported that Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) are planning to introduce a bill today that pairs the Dream Act with smart border security measures. Their bill is reported to be based on the bipartisan House bill sponsored by Will Hurd (R-TX) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA) – a bill that enjoys the co-sponsorship of 27 House Republicans and 27 House Democrats. The following is a reaction from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Over the past ten days, the congressional drive to enact a permanent solution for Dreamers on a bipartisan basis has been nearly derailed by the radical and far-reaching White House immigration proposal. With the Senate to debate immigration soon, the McCain-Coons bill is a positive step in the right direction. It narrows the focus of the legislative debate by pairing the Dream Act with smart border security measures. Unlike the White House plan, this sounds like a proposal that can pass and can work.

Narrow gets it done. A radical and massive overhaul does not.

Authored by Stephen Miller, the White House plan is a cynical attempt to enact longstanding nativist policy goals by exploiting the desperation of Dreamers. In addition to protecting some Dreamers, the framework does the following:

  • Slashes legal immigration levels while making the flow both less diverse and less well-educated;
  • Turbocharges interior enforcement in order to ramp up deportations;
  • Guts asylum protections so that Central Americans, including unaccompanied minors, are more easily deported to the violence they are escaping; and
  • Funds with taxpayer money the construction of a wasteful and unnecessary border wall.

With the Senate expected to take up immigration soon, the White House proposal has landed with a thud. Beyond a few hardliners such as Cornyn, Grassley, Lankford, Cotton and Perdue, many Senators on both sides of the aisle have argued that only a narrow approach that pairs Dreamer relief with border security measures can pass the Congress (see below for quotes from Republican Senators Thune, Collins, Alexander, Lee, Rounds and Rubio).

In the House, the Hurd-Aguilar bipartisan bill enjoys broad bipartisan support. Right now, it has the votes to be enacted – with all Democrats and many Republicans. But that would require Speaker Ryan to hear the call of democracy and to ignore the call of his radical right, and for moderate Republicans to stand up for a solution that is doable rather than fall in line behind a President bent on a blame game.

The path forward is clear. It’s time to blow past a radical and racist White House plan that has served only to destabilize and delay a legislative solution for Dreamers whose lives were upended when President Trump unilaterally ended DACA. The Senate should take up a bill along the lines of McCain – Coons, which will garner much more support than the White House proposal. Their proposal points at the sweet spot. That way lies a breakthrough.

Leading Republican Senators also are speaking out in favor for a narrowly-tailored, “Dreamer plus border” approach:

  • Susan Collins (R-ME) on 1/29/18: “It seems to me that the two important things to tackle right now . . . are to protect the dreamers and also to strengthen border security.”
  • John Thune (R-SD) on 1/23/18: “If it’s DACA for border security, that’s probably a deal that will get done. If we start adding other elements of the whole immigration debate into it? … Narrower gets it done.”
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on 1/26/18: “We don’t have to solve the entire problem of legal immigration … All we really have to do is focus on the young people who were brought here illegally through no fault of their own, and border security. Sometimes taking small steps in the right direction is a good way to get where you want to go.”
  • Mike Lee (R-UT) on 1/24/18 : “The more that bill was laden down with more provisions, the less narrow it became, the more impossible it became to pass,” Mr. Lee said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” He said that the bill facing Congress now needs to include protections for Dreamers — children brought into the U.S. illegally — as well as border security measures to ensure President Trump will support it.”
  • Mike Rounds (R-SD) on 1/25/18: “What we’re really trying to do is get results with regard to the issue in front of us, which are the children impacted by DACA and an opportunity to address the issue of border security.”
  • Marco Rubio on 1/26/18: “Our primary goal should be to send to the President, before March 5th, a bill that secures our border and that addresses the plight of the current beneficiaries of DACA in a responsible way. The reaction, from both sides, to the President’s outline is a reminder that the more an immigration bill tries to do, the harder it is to pass. With only five weeks to go before DACA expires, if an agreement can’t be reached on a broader bill, Congress should at least address the most immediate problems. We cannot allow unrealistic and unreasonable expectations to lead us down a path of failure.”