- The so-called Common Sense Coalition, led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, released its DACA proposal on Wednesday night
- DHS blasted the amendment as a “mass amnesty” that would encourage further illegal immigration
- The proposal falls well short of the White House framework for DACA legislation
The Trump administration ripped a bipartisan immigration reform proposal from a group of senators led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine just hours after it was unveiled, calling it a “mass amnesty” that would undermine border security.
The proposal from the so-called “Common Sense” coalition is one of at least seven amendments codifying protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program under consideration in the upper chamber. It is being promoted as middle ground that can peel off enough Republicans to reach the minimum 60-vote threshold needed to pass in the Senate.
In a statement released early Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the Collins plan would amount to a large-scale amnesty of illegal immigrants that would do nothing to address the administration’s concerns about border security.
“Instead of helping to secure the border as the President has repeatedly asked Congress to do, it would do the exact opposite and make our border far more open and porous,” DHS said. “It would ensure a massive wave of new illegal immigration by exacerbating the pull factors caused by legal loopholes.”
The Common Sense Coalition is a group of 16 senators that have been working on a parallel DACA proposal to the so-called Gang of Six, a separate bipartisan group that has proposed its own compromise legislation. The Republicans in the Gang of Six — Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Cory Gardner of Colorado — are also participants in the Common Sense group.
Graham has described the Common Sense amendment as a “two-pillar” proposal that addresses DACA and border security, but leaves untouched the administration’s demands for changes to the green card lottery and chain migration visas. The proposal sets aside $25 billion over 10 years for a border “wall system” and hiring additional immigration enforcement personnel. Its amnesty provision sets out a 12-year path to citizenship for DACA recipients and at least a million other younger illegal immigrants who were not DACA beneficiaries.
“As to the DACA population, we mirror President Trump’s proposal allowing DACA eligible individuals to obtain legal status and over a ten to twelve-year period, they can become green card holders,” Graham said in a statement Thursday. “This will allow them to pursue their lives with certainty and stability in the United States — the only country they know.”
DHS painted a far different picture of the Common Sense amendment, saying it goes beyond a reasonable DACA fix and approaches a “mass amnesty” that will lead to further illegal immigration. One objection centers around the proposal’s eligibility criteria, which are much broader than both the original DACA program and the administration’s immigration framework.
The Collins amendment offers protection to any illegal immigrant who entered the U.S. by June 15, 2007 and was under 18 at the time of arrival. As long as the immigrant was under the age of 38 on June 15, 2012 — the DACA program start date — he or she would qualify for relief under the proposal.
DHS says those age parameters would make roughly 3 million illegal immigrants eligible for amnesty, compared the 1.8 million covered by the administration’s framework.
“Persons who are under the age of 43 years old TODAY are eligible to apply for DACA now — these are not children, and haven’t been for some time,” DHS said, criticizing the idea that the Common Sense proposal is needed to protect children who came to the U.S. through no fault of their own.
DHS was equally critical of the immigration enforcement provisions slipped into the Collins amendment. The proposal directs the homeland security secretary to prioritize aliens who arrive after June 30, 2018, amounting to a “holiday” that will encourage more illegal immigration, DHS said.
The department also called the proposal’s limit on green cards for the parents of DACA recipients a “faux-prohibition” that is “administratively and judicially impossible to administer.” It would lead to a de facto amnesty for the parents of the people covered by the amendment, DHS said.
Taken as whole, the Collins amendment falls well short of the White House immigration framework, which trades amnesty for 1.8 million younger illegal immigrants for fully funding the border wall, ending the diversity visa lottery, and limiting chain migration to nuclear family members. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a leading immigration hawk who has endorsed the White House plan, called the Common Sense proposal a “disgrace” and urged his Twitter followers to voice their opposition to lawmakers.
President Donald Trump has reportedly promised to veto any DACA compromise bill that does not line up with his immigration framework.
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