John Kelly Meets With Senators To Map Out DACA Compromise

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Trump administration officials and a bipartisan group of senators are working on a compromise bill that would give legal status to recipients of the now-canceled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for tighter border security and immigration reforms.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly met Tuesday night with top senators involved in immigration policy to discuss what concessions the administration expects as a part of legislative DACA replacement. Kelly said the White House proposal will be delivered to lawmakers soon, possibly as early as next week, reports Politico, citing sources who attended the meeting.

Republican leaders in the Senate have already said DACA will not be on the agenda for the remainder of the year before lawmakers go on holiday recess. Despite pressure from activists and the far-left wing of the party, Democratic leadership has conceded it won’t risk a government shutdown by demanding DACA amnesty provisions be included in spending bills. (RELATED: Congress Is Not Going To Touch A DACA Replacement Before End Of Year)

With the DACA negotiations postponed until January, the Trump administration and GOP lawmakers are trying to hash out what proposals they will present to Democrats to balance the DACA amnesty. The White House and conservative Republicans both say they want enhanced border security, including funding for a border wall, plus changes to the legal immigration system that would curtail low-skilled migration.

At the Tuesday night meeting, senators questioned Kelly about which reforms the White House wants to see paired with the DACA bill and which could be addressed in separate legislation, according to Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.

“There’s a lot of nice things we need to do as part of broader comprehensive reform, but we need to have a bill in January and we need to know what has to be in it and what the administration will support,” Flake said, according to Politico.

Flake added that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is committed to holding a vote on a DACA compromise bill before Jan. 19, which is the next deadline to fund the government.

Any DACA replacement is likely to draw from several competing immigration proposals floated over the past year. On the Democratic side, lawmakers are pushing the Dream Act of 2017, an amnesty-only bill that would grant legal permanent residence to the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, plus two to four times that number of similarly situated illegal immigrants.

A proposal from GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has emerged as a leading Republican model for immigration reform in concert with DACA legalization. Known as the SECURE Act, the bill would give DACA-eligible illegal immigrants work permits and protection from deportation for three years, in exchange for limits on extended family immigration and the mandatory use of e-Verify.

While the SECURE Act was generally well-received by immigration hawks, some conservative reformers worry that Republicans will strip out the bill’s deeper immigration reforms in order to placate Democrats.

Reacting to Politico’s report, Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, expressed concern that the GOP will ultimately accept no more than unspecified “border measures” in a DACA bill.

Doing away with chain migration, in which recently arrived immigrants can sponsor non-nuclear relatives for their own immigrant visas, has become a primary aim of conservatives in the Republican caucus. Two such lawmakers, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, attended the Tuesday night meeting with Kelly.


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