Former top homeland security officials urged lawmakers to strike a deal on giving legal status to younger illegal immigrants by the middle of January, saying an amnesty bill needs to arrive well before a March deadline set by the White House.
In a letter sent to Congress Wednesday, Jeh Johnson and Janet Napolitano, homeland security secretaries in the Obama administration, and Michael Chertoff, a homeland security chief under former President George W. Bush, expressed support for a legislative replacement for the now-cancelled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Lawmakers should pass a bill quickly, they wrote, in order to ensure that DACA recipients don’t lose their protections before the program expires March 5, the deadline imposed by President Donald Trump when he cancelled the program in September.
“We write not only in strong support of this legislation, but to stress that it should be enacted speedily, in order to meet the significant administrative requirements of implementation, as well as the need to provide certainty for employers and these young people,” the secretaries said, according to The New York Times.
The letter was sent ahead of a meeting Wednesday between White House officials and congressional leaders. Along with budget and defense issues, the DACA program is expected to be a focus of discussion.
The former DHS secretaries said a DACA deal would have to be in place by mid-January in order to “responsibly” implement a new immigration program before the expiration date. That timeframe coincides with the Jan. 19 expiration of a temporary spending bill to keep the government running.
Pro-DACA advocates and some Democratic lawmakers have advocated using the threat of a government shutdown to force DACA protections into into the 2018 spending bill. However, GOP lawmakers say they will address a DACA in separate legislation that also includes additional border security and immigration reforms.
Trump has warned Democrats that he will not sign off on DACA amnesty without concessions on border wall funding and changes to the family-based immigration system.
“The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc,” he tweeted last week. “We must protect our Country at all cost!”
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