President Donald Trump’s decision to wind down a program that gives protection to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children has given Congress yet another urgent task in an already crowded legislative season.
Lawmakers now have six months to come up with a legislative remedy for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before beneficiaries begin to lose their status. Even before Tuesday’s announcement on the DACA wind-down, Republicans had introduced several measures that would provide some kind of legalization for DACA recipients, ranging from temporary work authorization to a path to full citizenship.
The proposals are standalone bills, meaning they don’t include any other provisions on immigration reform or border security that conservative Republicans will likely insist on paring with DACA amnesty.
Here is what GOP lawmakers have proposed so far.
Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act
Introduced in March by Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the bill creates a path to legal permanent residence and eventually citizenship for high school graduates as long as they don’t rely on public assistance. Under the RAC Act, illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and who have been here for more than five years could apply for green cards if they pursue a college education, join the military or maintain employment over a five year period.
Moderate Republicans in toss-up districts sponsored the RAC Act, but it has also received support from conservative lawmakers. GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said Tuesday he will introduce a Senate version of the RAC Act in order to set a “fair and rigorous path for undocumented children to earn legal status.”
Tillis says he is confident his proposal will bring Democratic senators on board.
“I know this kind of common sense legislative fix can and should unite members of Congress, and I’ll be working closely with my colleagues on the path forward,” he told NPR’s Charlotte affiliate. “It’s up to my Democratic colleagues to decide whether they want a permanent solution or to make this a political wedge issue. I hope they’ll choose bipartisanship.”
This bipartisan effort is the latest version of a bill that Sens. Linsey Graham of South Carolina and Dick Durbin of Illinois have backed since the early 2000s. It casts a wider net than the RAC proposal — any illegal immigrant who has lived in the U.S. since age 18 and for at least four years can apply for conditional permanent status.
Like other proposals, the Dream Act requires applicants to graduate from high school or obtain a GED and work for a minimum of three years, serve in the military or pursue a college degree. Though the Dream Act is backed by Graham as well as Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, it is more properly understood as a Democratic proposal.
Despite his insistence that Congress send him a bill on DACA amnesty, Trump doesn’t appear inclined to support the Dream Act. When Graham and Durbin proposed the bill in July, White House legislative director Marc Short said, “I think that the administration has opposed the Dream Act and likely will be consistent on that,” reports NPR.
This bill, which is short for Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy, is the most limited of the three proposals with Republican support. Proposed in January by Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Colorado, the BRIDGE Act is essentially a legislative version of the DACA program.
The legislation would allow the same people eligible for DACA to be shielded from deportation and work in the U.S. for the next three years, but it does not include any path to permanent legal status or citizenship. The idea behind the BRIDGE Act is to prevent immigration authorities from detaining and deporting eligible illegal immigrants while lawmakers craft a broader immigration reform package.
Like the DACA program, the proposal applies to illegal immigrants born after June 15, 1981, who entered the U.S. before age 16 and have lived here since June 15, 2007.
Coffman said during the August recess he would attempt a rare parliamentary tactic to force a vote on the bill later this month, reports ABC News.
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