Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Wednesday are set to release a bare-bones immigration proposal that has the opportunity to appease both political parties and the president himself.
A bipartisan group of senators are set to propose an immigration bill Wednesday that includes permanent protections and an earned pathway to citizenship for roughly 1.8 undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, known as “Dreamers,” and $25 billion for border security, PBS NewsHour reporter Lisa Desjardins reported. The bill may be President Trump’s only chance to get funding for a border wall, but White House officials cautioned on a background call Wednesday that the president may not sign a “skinny” proposal.
The Trump administration ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last September, phasing out temporary work authorization and deportation protections for certain immigrants who came to the country as children. About 800,000 immigrants became beneficiaries of the program since its inception nearly six years ago. It’s estimated that 1.8 million immigrants would have been eligible for the program had the Trump White House not ended it. The discrepancy between the DACA population and the DACA-eligible population includes young immigrants who had not aged into the DACA program and other people who may not yet have met every requirement, like graduating from high school or obtaining a high school diploma equivalent.
Despite early assurances by the president in January that he would sign any immigration bills that Congress sends to him so long as it includes a border wall, he later requested any legislation from Congress include “four pillars”: a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, $25 billion for border security, limits to family-based migration, and an end to the diversity visa.
Hours before lawmakers emerged from Sen. Susan Collins’ (R-ME) office, where they met to discuss the immigration proposal, the White House released a statement endorsing a Republican-led plan that grants an earned pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers, but also heavily focuses on the elimination of legal immigration avenues, like family-based migration and the diversity visa, as well as additional interior immigration enforcement. The plan mirrors Trump’s “four pillars” on immigration. That plan likely will not gain Democratic supporters, some of whom insist that they would not support bills that fund additional immigration enforcement agents to pursue undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes beyond their unauthorized stay in the United States.
White House officials in a background briefing later on Wednesday said that the president will not sign Graham’s proposal, and again called for Congress to move on Grassley’s proposed bill instead.
The chance to pass an immigration bill with bicameral majority approval is slim. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that immigration would take up the rest of the week on the Senate floor because he wanted to move on to “other things.” As of Wednesday, Senators now have less than a two-day window to pass immigration reform. If approved, the bill will go to the Republican-led House and later to the president who once promised he would endorse a “bill of love” and that he would “take the heat off” both parties.
Yet the bill is likely as close as it will get to a compromise plan that Trump publicly said he would support during a 55-minute televised meeting on immigration back in January.
“I will be signing it,” he assured lawmakers at the time. “I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.’ I’ll be signing it.”
“I’ll take the heat, I don’t care. I don’t care,” Trump told lawmakers in January. “I’ll take all the heat you want to give me, and I’ll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat. I like heat, in a certain way.”