The Bipartisan Policy Center released a framework Thursday it said could cut through the immigration clutter and provide the outlines of an agreement to legalize illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” while also making some updates to border security.
All 700,000 Dreamers currently protected by the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty program would be covered, but so should hundreds of thousands of others who either came since the 2007 DACA cutoff date, or who missed the age cap cutoff, the new outline says.
They should be given immediate legal status and a path to a green card and eventually citizenship, says the outline crafted by former Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former Clinton administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros.
In exchange, the BPC calls for very small tweaks to border security, and no enhancements to interior security or to the legal immigration system — breaking sharply from the 70-point plan President Trump laid out this weekend, which he wants to see in any final deal.
The BPC also skips Mr. Trump’s call for a border wall, saying instead that technology, better roads and more security at the ports of entry, and more Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers are enough.
While the plan offers some small security improvements, it does not address the visa overstays who are a bigger source of new illegal immigrants at this point, according to the latest data.
Dreamers have traditionally been the most sympathetic figures in the immigration debate, seen as victims who were brought to the U.S by parents with little say in the decision.
There is widespread public support for granting them legal status.
But their parents are a tougher situation.
Mr. Trump and other top Republicans have signaled that while the children may be blameless, they want to find a way to keep their parents — the ones who in many cases did break the law to smuggle them into the U.S. — from benefitting.
Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies, predicts that if DACA recipients were legalized, they would be expected to sponsor 1.4 million other relatives over time — including parents who were responsible for bringing them.
But the BPC challenges that, saying “it would be virtually impossible for a Dreamer to successfully sponsor an undocumented parent or any family member who entered the country illegally for a green card.”
The center said depending on the legislation, it could be 15 years before a Dreamer is eligible to petition for a parent to gain status, and even then there are legally hurdles if the parent has been in the U.S. illegally.
Those hurdles can be overcome through waivers, but the BPC says those are difficult to achieve.
The BPC said it does want all 11 million estimated illegal immigrants to have a chance at legal status, but said that would scuttle the current bill, “so we believe it should not be included at this time.”
It’s unclear how much weight the framework will carry.
The BPC said its plan is something that could pass quickly, speeding a solution for Dreamers while leaving the bigger decisions for a broader debate over the rest of the illegal immigrant population and a solution to illegal immigration for later.
Still, the BPC plan tilts far more toward Democrats’ wish-list, which wants a full pathway to citizenship for a broad swath of illegal immigrants, in exchange for small changes such as more drug-sniffing dogs and a boost to Coast Guard drug interdiction efforts.
Republicans say a legalization without stiffer security could invite a new wave of illegal immigration.
“We believe that a DACA fix, which we agree with, needs to be coupled with border security and enforcement so we don’t have a DACA problem 10 years down the road,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters Thursday.
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