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If Dreamers get a deal, it will be because of Trump, not Schumer


Senator Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.) has dismissed the White House’s new Framework on Immigration Reform & Border security as a “wish list” for hard-liners. According to Schumer, Trump is using protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) participants as “a tool to tear apart our legal immigration system and adopt the wish list that anti-immigration hardliners have advocated for years.”

But Schumer’s own DACA proposal, which he put together as part of the Gang of Six, was just as unacceptable to Trump as Trump’s current proposal is to Schumer.

{mosads}Schumer rejected Trump’s previous proposal, which was to establish a program for the 690,000 DACA participants that would continue their temporary legal status, and proposed a legalization program for a couple of million Dreamers. Moreover, he offered Trump just $1.591 billion for building a wall, which is only a small fraction of the amount he needs; and did not meaningfully address his chain migration concerns.

That was not the first time Schumer has advocated a position he knew would be rejected. Four years ago, he moved his immigration reform bill, S.744, through the Senate despite the fact that it was opposed by 70 percent of the Senate Republicans.  It was dead on arrival in the Republican controlled House.

Trump may be right that the Democrats don’t want to make a deal.

They could have passed a DREAM Act during Barack Obama’s administration. From January 2009 to January 2011, they had a large majority in the House, and until Scott Brown’s special election in 2010, they had a supermajority in the Senate. They passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) without a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate.

If the Dreamers get help now, it will be because Trump wants to help them, not because of Democratic proposals like the one Schumer made.

Border Security.

The last major legalization program was established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). It provided lawful status for undocumented aliens who were already in the United States in return for enforcement measures that were supposed to prevent a new group of undocumented aliens from taking the place of the ones being legalized.

Trump is offering a similar deal. He will help the Dreamers in return for a large wall across our Southwest border, which should go a long way towards preventing a new group of children from taking the place of the ones given lawful status now. While adult aliens may be able to climb over a wall, no matter how tall it is, children can’t.

But his new border security framework goes much further. It declares that DHS “must have the tools to deter illegal immigration; the ability to remove individuals who illegally enter the United States; and the vital authorities necessary to protect national security.”

These objectives should be considered in the context of a larger, more comprehensive immigration reform bill, but they offer room for negotiations.

DACA Legalization.

The framework would provide “legal status for DACA recipients and other DACA-eligible illegal immigrants, adjusting the time-frame to encompass a total population of approximately 1.8 million individuals.”

This would be a major legalization program. IRCA established the largest legalization program we have ever had, and it only legalized 2.7 million aliens.

While this part of the proposal should please the Democrats, it is not likely to be acceptable to the Republicans. Moreover, such a large legalization program should be subjected to the checks and balances of Committee hearings and markups.

End Chain Migration.

Chain migration occurs when an immigrant gets lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and then sponsors his family members, who sponsor more family members, and so on.  Trump uses the following chart to illustrate the magnitude of this practice:

This does not have to be an “either or” situation. The visas currently given to extended family members could be transitioned to a merit-based point system that would give extra credit for family ties to a citizen or LPR. Under such a system, aliens who have family ties would be chosen ahead of aliens with similar qualifications who do not have family ties.

Eliminate the visa lottery.

The framework would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, which grants visas on the basis of a lottery, and reallocate the visas to family and employment-based visa categories.

This should be acceptable to the Democrats. They have shown a willingness to end this program in the past. Schumer’s immigration reform bill that the Senate passed in 2013 would have ended it if it had not been rejected on other grounds in the House. 

However you view Trump’s latest proposal, the fact that it includes a legalization program for 1.8 million Dreamers is a strong indication that he is serious about wanting to help them.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.

Tags Barack Obama Chuck Schumer

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