Lawmakers Quietly Inch Toward Dreamer Deal

Key Senate Republicans are getting closer to an agreement on legislation to protect the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who will lose work permits and deportation protections starting early next year, according to Politico. Preliminary discussions show that influential GOP senators are eager to devise a permanent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) solution that could garner support from both Democrats and President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration in September announced plans to effectively end DACA in March 2018 if Congress does not act on legislation to replace the temporary program. That same month, President Trump appeared to strike a tentative agreement with Democratic leaders that would pair modest border security measures—and no border wall—with permanent status for young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors. However, the administration has since taken a sharp turn on its DACA demands.

In October, Trump unveiled a list of hard-line immigration provisions, including funding for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, measures aimed at cracking down on the flow of minors from Central and South America, a new merit-based legal immigration system, and changes to the federal grant program for so-called "sanctuary cities." His demands, nonstarters with Democrats and even many Republicans, represent a concerted effort to broaden the expected Congressional debate regarding Dreamers to one about overhauling the entire American immigration system.

While a bipartisan DACA deal in Congress is in no way imminent, some outlines of an agreement are becoming clearer. Lawmakers have reportedly all but ruled out the inclusion of a mandatory workplace verification system known as E-Verify in any final DACA legislation. Measures to increase border security, limit some chain migration, and shift the U.S. immigration laws into a merit-based system remain in contention among key GOP senators, though.

Democratic lawmakers are aware that Republicans will want some concessions, but are wary about accommodating an extensive list of GOP demands, Politico reported.

"We cannot put comprehensive immigration reform on the backs of these kids," said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat who first wrote legislation that gives Dreamers a pathway to citizenship in 2001. "That is unfair and the long list of things that Republicans want to do include many things that need to be saved for a later debate on a comprehensive bill."

Still, Durbin expressed some optimism: "I think we're at critical mass here in terms of the number of Republican senators once we reach an agreement. We haven't reached an agreement yet."


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