Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures
© Greg Nash

GOP senators are pushing forward with legislation that would extend an Obama-era program allowing young immigrants to live and work in the United States, while pairing it with new measures to bolster border security.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyNumber of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports Grassley, Cornyn push for Senate border hearing The Hill's Morning Report - GOP pounces on Biden's infrastructure plan MORE (R-Iowa), allows the Trump administration to build “tactical and technological infrastructure” along the U.S.-Mexico border.

It would target funding for so-called sanctuary cities that don’t comply with federal immigration law, bolster the e-verify employment verification program and crack down on "chain migration" by limiting which family members U.S. citizens and permanent residents can try to sponsor for a green card. 

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The bill would also incorporate a separate measure extending for three years the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to work and go to school under certain conditions.

“After having these discussions, and after meeting with the president to get his input and his support, we’ve come up with a plan. This plan is fair to all parties. It’s pro-American. And it’s a solution to DACA,” Grassley said from the Senate floor as he introduced the Security, Enforcement and Compassion United in Reform Efforts, or SECURE, Act.

In addition to Grassley, the bill is backed by GOP Sens. John CornynJohn CornynOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dakota Access pipeline to remain in operation despite calls for shutdown | Biden hopes to boost climate spending by B | White House budget proposes .4B for environmental justice 2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet Number of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports MORE (Texas), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings GOP senator recovering from surgery for prostate cancer Congress must address the toxic exposure our veterans have endured MORE (N.C.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordRubio and bipartisan group of senators push to make daylight saving time permanent Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session Ron Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many MORE (Okla.), Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonMcConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists POW/MIA flag moved back atop White House MORE (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.).

The Trump administration announced in September that it would wind down the DACA program. It gave Congress until mid-March to come up with a legislative solution. If Congress fails to pass a bill, hundreds of thousands of immigrants will be at risk of being deported.

Senators have been jockeying over DACA for months, with the fight ratcheting up this month as several House Democrats and a growing number of progressive senators warn they will not support a government funding bill without a deal on the program.

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinLawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden's job Number of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports Grassley, Cornyn push for Senate border hearing MORE (D-Ill.) immediately panned the GOP legislation on Tuesday, saying the bill is not a “good faith effort to provide protection for the Dreamers, including those who were enrolled in DACA."

“The laundry list of unrelated immigration bills which they have offered is designed to delay and stop any serious bipartisan effort to solve this crisis created by the Trump administration,” he said.

Durbin rejected an offer from Grassley and Cornyn that paired Cornyn’s border security bill with a DACA fix that did not include a path to citizenship.

Durbin countered with an offer that paired the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act with roughly a dozen provisions from Cornyn's border security bill.

The DREAM Act, unlike DACA, includes a path to citizenship. But that's considered a nonstarter for many supporters in Trump’s base, which has warned him against breaking from the hardline immigration rhetoric used during his presidential campaign.

GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFive reasons why US faces chronic crisis at border Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain Former GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' MORE (R-Ariz.) has been working with Durbin on trying to find a bipartisan agreement on the issue.