The path to breaking Washington’s latest budget impasse has long been clear, even if the fringes on both sides have been loath to accept it.
Congress must pass legislation pairing more protection for U.S. borders with a long-term plan for the undocumented immigrants brought to America as children, often referred to as Dreamers, who will soon lose legal protection with the imminent expiration of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.
No amount of posturing will change the political reality that the most realistic path forward for these priorities is a shared track. It’s with this in mind that the Problem Solvers Caucus—which features 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans—recently released a set of bipartisan principles that lays the groundwork for a commonsense deal on DACA and border security.
We need action now, as we barrel towards another budget showdown. Knowing that time is of the essence, we hope our colleagues and House leadership will join us by attaching a DACA-border security deal to the passage of long-term, fiscally responsible budget plan to end the pernicious cycle of continuing resolutions and shut downs that began last Fall.
The process by which the Problem Solvers Caucus came to agreement on this plan is every bit as important as what it contains, as it reflects the sort of give and take and compromise that has become increasingly rare in Washington.
For months, a Caucus working group has been forging a DACA-border security deal that could garner 75 percent support of our entire Caucus and more than half of its Democrats and Republicans; which is the threshold we set for ourselves to bind our members in support of a policy position. The Caucus followed the same process this past summer, when we released the first and only bipartisan health care reform in the House.
To be sure, no member of our Caucus got everything they wanted in this immigration deal. But, together, we developed something that meaningfully addresses the most important priorities for both sides.
Our proposal provides a 12-year path to citizenship for Dreamers who abide the law, pay taxes and who entered the U.S. by June 15, 2012. Although Dreamers would not be able to sponsor their own parents for citizenship, their parents could obtain a three-year renewable legal status that would allow them to work without providing a pathway to citizenship, and they could be sponsored by Dreamers’ U.S.-born siblings.
To help secure the border, we would appropriate almost $1.6 billion for barrier infrastructure, planning, design and construction, which is consistent with the request made by President TrumpDonald TrumpFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Giving thanks for Thanksgiving itself Immigration provision in Democrats' reconciliation bill makes no sense MORE in his 2018 budget. We would also allocate another $1.1 billion for non-barrier infrastructure such as surveillance technology and the relocation and retention of border agents.
Dreamers and infrastructure are the core of our proposal. But, we were also mindful of the push from both sides for updates to our country’s visa programs. Our plan would increase some types of visas, including those for immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (which allows immigrants from countries afflicted by war or natural disaster to seek temporary refuge in the U.S.). It would also prioritize immigrants from underrepresented countries through a new merit-based preference system that would give more weight to an immigrant’s education, employment history, civic involvement, and ability to meet the needs of the U.S workforce.
If enacted into law, our proposal will substantially improve our current immigration system. It will provide a certain future for some 800,000 Dreamers, including students, soldiers, doctors, entrepreneurs and many others already contributing to our country.
It is also time for Congress to address the concerns of millions of Americans who are concerned about the security of our borders. Our proposal would improve border personnel, technologies and resources and confront the risks of illegal immigration.
Americans seem to agree with such a plan. In the just released Harvard/Harris poll, 77 percent of people support a path to citizenship for Dreamers and 61 percent said they believe our border security is “inadequate.”
Republicans and Democrats want DACA and border security resolved. So while we are a country of “dreamers” we are also a country of doers. It is time for Congress to act and take ‘yes’ for an answer.
Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerFive takeaways: House passes Biden's sweeping benefits bill Dems brace for score on massive Biden bill Democrats bullish they'll reach finish line this week MORE is a Democratic representative from New Jersey. Tom ReedTom ReedLawmakers who bucked their parties on the T infrastructure bill Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE is a Republican representative from New York. They are the co-chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus.