WASHINGTON (AP) – A bipartisan immigration proposal surfaced Monday in the Senate, only to be quickly knocked down by President Donald Trump via Twitter. Firing back, one senator pushing the narrowly focused compromise said Trump’s “unconstructive engagement” has hurt congressional efforts to strike a broader deal.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del., said they were proposing legislation that would provide a pathway to legal status – potentially including citizenship – for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children, known as “Dreamers.” It would also require the government to strengthen border security by 2020, but stops short of specifically providing the $25 billion Trump wants for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time. March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!” Trump tweeted.
The “Dreamers” have been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, created by former President Barack Obama. Trump has said he’s terminating the program but has given Congress until March 5 to renew it, though a federal judge’s temporary order preserving DACA has left that deadline’s impact murky.
Trump has proposed offering a route to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young immigrants. He would also limit legal immigration by reducing the relatives they can sponsor for citizenship and eliminating a lottery that provides visas to people from diverse places, including Africa.
In a conference call with reporters, Coons said tackling a wider bill has “gotten more politically complicated” because of Trump’s “unconstructive engagement on immigration.” Coons said he was referring to Trump comments at a White House meeting last month at which he used a vulgarity to described African nations.
Coons said Trump’s push to limit legal immigration based on families is the “most divisive and difficult” of his proposals.
Coons said he believed his plan with McCain would protect around 1.8 million to 2 million young immigrants. It would create a road to legal status for “Dreamers” who arrived in the U.S. by the end of 2013 and meet other criteria, including no convictions for serious crimes. Once they’ve become lawful permanent residents, they can follow existing procedures to apply for citizenship.
It was being unveiled days before the Senate plans to begin debating immigration legislation, a battle that faces an uncertain outcome in a politically polarized climate. It remains unclear what measure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will use to commence debate and what amendments will be offered.