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 ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall MORE (S.D.), Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSteel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs Trade official warns senators of obstacles to quick China deal Lawmakers divided over how to end shutdowns for good MORE (R-Ohio) and Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenators optimistic about reaching funding deal GOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On 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 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 TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE rescinded DACA in September and gave Congress a March 5 deadline for replacing it.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 CollinsBusiness, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week MORE (R-Maine), Angus KingAngus Stanley KingDrama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry Warner, Burr split on committee findings on collusion Overnight Defense: Top general wasn't consulted on Syria withdrawal | Senate passes bill breaking with Trump on Syria | What to watch for in State of the Union | US, South Korea reach deal on troop costs MORE (I-Maine) and Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senator: Trump thinks funding deal is 'thin gruel' Lawmakers put Pentagon's cyber in their sights Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans 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.