House GOP releases compromise immigration legislation that would protect DREAMers, fund wall

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Eliza Collins reports on the developments to prevent House Democrats and some moderate Republicans from forcing a procedural motion on immigration.
USA TODAY

 

WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders on Thursday released a draft of immigration legislation that would provide legal protections for undocumented young people known as DREAMers while also providing more than $23 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico. 

The draft legislation, circulated by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other leaders to rank-and-file GOP lawmakers, is intended to be a compromise on an issue that has bitterly the party. A vote is likely next week, but it is unclear if the legislation has the votes to pass or if President Trump will back it.

On one of the most divisive issues, the bill would allow for up to 1.8 million DREAMers to apply for “nonimmigrant status.” That number is nearly three times the roughly 700,000 who are were protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. However, the DREAMers must meet certain conditions in order to apply. They must, for example, have a high school diploma or GED and must be under 36 years old. 

The draft, obtained by USA TODAY, would seek to avoid separating immigrant children from their parents. If passed, the bill would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery system and narrow family-based migration to immediate family members.

The bill does not include a mandate for e-verify, which would require employers to check whether their workers are legally allowed to work in the U.S. Conservative Republicans wanted to see e-verify included in the compromise legislation because they are concerned such a measure won’t pass on it’s own.  Business-friendly Republicans oppose making that mandatory. 

Ryan committed to bringing up the compromise bill along with a separate piece of legislation put together by conservative Republicans. The announcement of the votes was set in order to tamp down a growing rebellion from GOP moderates, even if neither piece of legislation is guaranteed to pass.

Trump ended DACA last fall and gave Congress six months to find a solution. Lawmakers failed to act, but they were given some cover when the courts ruled that DACA needed to remain in place as the court cases proceeded. Democrats and some moderate Republicans decided Congress must act and threatened to team up on a rare maneuver that would force Congress to vote on a series of proposals with the likely winner being a bipartisan bill. Ryan was able to avoid the embarrassment Tuesday night when he announced the scheduled votes and stopped the so-called “discharge petition” from getting the required signatures to go around him and force the votes. 

The conservative proposal, which Trump supports, would cut legal immigration, strengthen border security, and provide temporary legal status to the DREAMers. That bill likely lacks the votes to pass because of opposition by moderates.

Both Republican measures are unlikely to get support from Democrats who oppose the border wall spending and want more robust protections for DREAmers.

Even if one of the bills does pass the House, it is unlikely to make it through the Senate, where legislation requires 60 votes to pass. Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona has been in Arizona all of 2018 fighting brain cancer. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he’d be open to bringing up legislation only if it had Trump’s support.

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