Menendez warns against changing chain migration for Dreamers

Menendez warns against changing chain migration for Dreamers
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Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Paul blocks Senate vote on House-passed Syria resolution House to vote on resolution condemning Trump's Syria pullback MORE (D-N.J.) said a deal to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is within reach, but warned Congress not to make irreversible changes to the immigration system.

Menendez warned that a Republican request to end so-called chain migration could make any DACA deal unacceptable to him, since it would take away the right of citizens and permanent residents to reunify with their family members.

“If you're asking me to end the possibility to claim a family member, which is a permanent change to the immigration system, that's probably beyond my reach,” Menendez said.

“And it shouldn't be the choice, that's a false choice,” he added.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE canceled DACA in September, giving Congress until March 5 to find a legislative alternative to the Obama-era program that granted nearly 800,000 young immigrants in the country illegally permits to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are embroiled in negotiations on DACA, end-of-year spending, disaster aid and other issues, but Menendez said DACA should be an easy problem to solve.

“If you can't get an agreement on this, then we're in trouble,” he said.

Still, Menendez warned "Dreamers" — DACA recipients and other immigrants who arrived in the country as children — that Democrats might have to wait until January to use their leverage to get a good deal, rather than a bad deal in December.

“As it is, I will have to swallow to deal with some of the border things that are being talked about, some of the monies that are being talked about, but I will do it if it means permanency for the Dreamers,” said Menendez.

When DACA ended in September, nearly 690,000 people were still enrolled in the program. Since the last renewal window closed in October, about 122 recipients have lost their benefits every day.

That's led Dreamers and immigration advocates to take a hard stance on a December solution, as more and more DACA recipients face potential deportation every day.

Menendez said he understands that sense of urgency. He proposed to make any solution retroactive to include Dreamers who have lost their DACA status because of expiration as a method to minimize that damage and negotiate from a position of strength.

Menendez said Democrats are committed to finding a good solution, but need to make sure to use their legislative leverage when it's most effective.

“The end of the year — that is what is a moving target. Not that this is a priority. What is the end of the year?” he said, referring to the various legislative options for a long-term government funding bill.

A continuing resolution vote in January, said the New Jersey senator, could provide Democrats with a better negotiating position, since it would mean Republicans had exhausted their options to pass a long-term spending bill with only a simple majority.

“Certainly, I don't see that happening by next Friday,” said Menendez of a year-long spending bill.

While Menendez said a government shutdown without a deal in place would “acquire nothing for the Dreamers,” he said the issue could be a determining factor in whether or not he votes for a continuing resolution by the next government funding deadline, Dec. 22.

“I'm going to see what the [Dec. 22 continuing resolution] looks like,” he said. “I may very well be a 'no' vote because of the DACA thing.”

This post was updated at 3:49 p.m.