Democrats Reject Grassley’s DACA Bill With Immigration Reforms

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Top Democratic lawmakers dismissed Tuesday a compromise bill offered by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley that would give protections to younger illegal immigrants in exchange for long-term immigration reform.

Grassley’s so-called SECURE Act would implement several policies long favored by conservative immigration reformers, most importantly the mandatory use of e-Verify and limits on family-based migration.

In return, the law would grant recipients of the now-cancelled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program relief from deportation and work authorization for three years.

Almost immediately after Grassley introduced the bill, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois rejected the idea that it represented a “good faith effort” to reach a bipartisan solution to the DACA problem. The Senate Democratic Whip, who is sponsoring a clean DACA amnesty bill, ripped Grassley and other GOP lawmakers supporting the SECURE Act.

“Neither Senator Cornyn nor Senator Grassley has ever voted for the Dream Act,” Durbin said in a statement, referring to his DACA bill. “This proposal, as I have told them personally, cannot be considered a good faith effort to provide protection for the Dreamers, including those who were enrolled in DACA.”

Durbin’s response highlighted the stark divide between Senate Democrats and most of their Republican counterparts over what constitutes an acceptable DACA fix. Grassley and the co-sponsors of the SECURE Act — Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Georgia Sen. David Perdue — are pushing a wishlist of conservative reforms to accompany DACA protections.

In addition to provisions on e-Verify and chain migration, the SECURE Act includes changes to asylum policies and penalties for sanctuary cities. The bill also incorporates the DACA protections included in a separate proposal known as the BRIDGE Act. Introduced earlier this year with bipartisan backing, the BRIDGE Act offers “provisional protected presence” to DACA-eligible immigrants, but no path to citizenship.

Democrats now consider most of those provisions to be non-starters. Instead, they are insisting on a deal that includes Durbin’s Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for more than 1 million younger illegal immigrants, in exchange for as-yet unspecified border security measures.

The impasse over DACA shows no signs of being resolved before the end of the year, as Democrats and some moderate Republican lawmakers have urged. Cornyn rejected that timeline Tuesday, as well as demands by some Democrats to insert a DACA amnesty in a 2018 budget bill.

“We are certainly willing to enter into those good-faith negotiations, but they do not belong in the end-of-the year spending appropriations debate,” Cornyn told reporters, according to CNN. “I hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will take our word for it as demonstrated by our good faith in making an offer to them that we do want to resolve this, but it’s not going to be before the end of this year.”

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