GOP senators float fallback plan to protect Dreamers

GOP senators float fallback plan to protect Dreamers
© Greg Nash

Three Republican senators floated a fallback plan Thursday to protect hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants facing deportation in exchange for $25 billion in border security.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (S.D.), Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanUSDA to recall more than 9,000 furloughed workers to provide farm aid Senate Dem introduces 'Stop Stupidity' act to end government shutdowns Senators look for possible way to end shutdown MORE (R-Ohio) and Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (R-Kan.) floated a measure that would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program indefinitely in exchange for $25 billion in border security funding.

It would require DACA recipients to reapply to the program every two years and cap expenditures for border security infrastructure at $5 billion per year.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCoast Guard chief: 'Unacceptable' that service members must rely on food pantries, donations amid shutdown Dem lawmaker apologizes after saying it's never been legal in US to force people to work for free Grassley to hold drug pricing hearing MORE rescinded DACA in September and gave Congress a March 5 deadline for replacing it. President Obama established the program in 2012 with an executive order, drawing criticism from Republicans, who said he exceeded his constitutional authority.

Thune hailed the backstop plan to protect "Dreamers" as “commonsense legislation” that would extend permanent protection and take a “meaningful step toward enhancing border security.” 

Portman called it “a sensible and fair solution” that would “codify the protections for the DACA population while also putting in place stronger border security measures consistent with the president’s proposal.”

The bill would also require the secretary of Homeland Security to make an annual report to the Senate and House Homeland Security panels about the status of fence construction along the U.S.-Mexico border and the estimated number of unlawful crossings. 

The trio of Republican senators unveiled their backup plan after the Senate defeated three proposals to protect Dreamers.

An amendment favored by Trump that would have created a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants who entered the country illegally as children, allocated $25 billion for border security, limited the weight of family relationships in granting green cards and overhauled the diversity visa lottery program failed by a lopsided vote of 39 to 60. 

A narrower bill backed by centrist Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP seeks to change narrative in shutdown fight Trump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World MORE (R-Maine), Angus KingAngus Stanley KingLobbying World Sen. Angus King begins treatment for prostate cancer GOP senators challenge Trump on shutdown strategy MORE (I-Maine) and Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices Trump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Senators look for possible way to end shutdown MORE (R-S.D.), which would have created a path to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for $25 billion in border funds, fell six votes short of the 60-vote hurdle needed to advance. 

It is unclear when, or if, the Senate will return to immigration legislation. The chamber is out of session next week for the Presidents Day recess.