Durbin, Graham teaming up on immigration bill

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are introducing DREAM Act legislation next week, as senators look for a long elusive immigration deal. 

Durbin told reporters on Thursday that it would be the starting base for broader negotiations within the Judiciary Committee and the Senate. 

“If we can reach an agreement soon, very soon, we will have the base bill reintroduced and then that will be our starting point to build support as well as consider any additions, too,” Durbin, the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters.

Durbin, who also serves as Senate majority whip, said that the forthcoming bill “will resemble our similar efforts in the past.”

Graham and Durbin have previously introduced Dream Act legislation that would provide permanent residency, and eventual citizenship, to immigrants brought into the country as children who meet education or work requirements. 

Graham, in a phone interview with The Hill, confirmed that the bill will mirror their earlier legislative efforts, which he viewed as a starting point for broader discussions that would also need to include border security. 

The Senate proposal would be substantially narrower than Biden’s immigration proposal that would provide pathways to citizenship for 11 million immigrants, as well as expanding refugee protections and more border technology. The Biden administration has also reportedly signaled a willingness to break the proposal into pieces to try to make it easier to pass Congress.

But Biden’s proposal is largely considered a non-starter for congressional Republicans. 

Durbin, asked about going broader on immigration, warned that some things “will be too much of a reach.”

In addition to Graham, Durbin has said that he’s reached out to roughly half a dozen Republicans, but pointed to the Dream Act and Temporary Protection Status as two of the highest priorities.

“My hope is … that we can through the Judiciary Committee move on an expedited basis the highest priorities and I’m working to build a group that might be able to do that,” Durbin said.

But Graham stressed that he views the bill with Durbin as a “starting point” for negotiations and a “good way …to get more people involved.”

Immigration has long been viewed as a white whale for Congress, with both sides interested in getting a deal but never able to reach an agreement. Trump, in early 2018, opened the door to accepting a pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought into the country as children in exchange for $25 billion for the border wall. 

But any chance of an agreement quickly unraveled and the Senate rejected four immigration bills including a centrist bill, backed by Graham, that would have allowed about 1.8 million immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children to remain, providing them an eventual pathway to citizenship. It also included $25 billion in border security and would have prevented the parents of “Dreamers” from being sponsored for citizenship. 

Graham on Thursday added that he wouldn’t support passing the forthcoming bill as a stand-alone, if they can’t get a larger deal, and doesn’t think 10 Republicans would give it the support needed for it to overcome a filibuster. 

“[It] is a good place to start the discussion and build out a compromise that will beneficial to the dreamer population and not incentivize a third wave of illegal immigration,” Graham said. 

Updated at 3:09 p.m.

Tags Dick Durbin Lindsey Graham

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