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 GrassleyBottom Line Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill 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 CornynThis week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' MORE (Texas), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission MORE (N.C.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission MORE (Okla.), Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Iran announces it will exceed uranium stockpile restraints of nuclear deal 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 DurbinOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments On The Money: Democrats move funding bills as budget caps deal remains elusive | Companies line up to weigh in on 0B China tariffs | Trudeau to talk trade with Pelosi, McConnell 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 FlakeDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Ariz.) has been working with Durbin on trying to find a bipartisan agreement on the issue.