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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — House passes bill to stop drug companies overcharging Medicaid | Incoming Dem chairman open to 'Medicare For All' hearings | Bill to reduce maternal mortality rates passes House House passes bill to keep drug companies from overcharging Medicaid Pence casts tie-breaking vote for Trump appeals court judge 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 CornynOval Office clash ups chances of shutdown On The Money: Trump, Dems battle over border wall before cameras | Clash ups odds of shutdown | Senators stunned by Trump's shutdown threat | Pelosi calls wall 'a manhood thing' for Trump Senators dumbfounded by Trump vow to shut down government MORE (Texas), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP tensions running high on criminal justice bill Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform Overnight Energy: Senate confirms controversial energy pick | EPA plans rollback of Obama coal emissions rule | GOP donor gave Pruitt K for legal defense MORE (N.C.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — Google CEO gets grilling before Congress | Pressure builds for election security bill | Trump to target China over IP theft | Experts warn cyber criminals growing more brazen The Year Ahead: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches IRS issues guidance aimed at limiting impact of tax on nonprofits' parking expenses MORE (Okla.), Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonMcConnell agrees to vote on Trump-backed criminal justice bill McConnell warns Senate it could work through Christmas break GOP fights piling up for McConnell 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinMcConnell agrees to vote on Trump-backed criminal justice bill O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform 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 FlakePence casts tie-breaking vote for Trump appeals court judge Dem: 'Disheartening' that Republicans who 'stepped up' to defend Mueller are leaving Flake: Republican Party ‘is a frog slowly boiling in water’ MORE (R-Ariz.) has been working with Durbin on trying to find a bipartisan agreement on the issue.