Commentary

New Gang of Six ‘Bipartisan Deal’ on DACA Amnesty Is Not Serious

Jessica Vaughan
By Jessica Vaughan | January 15, 2018 | 4:26 PM EST

A group of six senators has come up with what they call a "bipartisan deal" on a DACA amnesty. From top left to bottom right, the Senators are listed as follows: Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (SC), Jeff Flake (AZ), Cory Gardner (CO), and Democratic Senators Durbin (IL), Michael Bennet (CO) and Robert Menendez (NJ). (Screenshots)

A group of six senators has come up with what they call a "bipartisan deal" on a DACA amnesty, but judging by details obtained by the Center, the aim is actually maximum amnesty, minimum border security and no cuts to legal immigration, and not a good faith effort to reach a deal with either the House of Representatives or the president.

Here's what Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (SC), Jeff Flake (AZ), Cory Gardner (CO), and Democratic Senators Durbin (IL), Michael Bennet (CO) and Robert Menendez (NJ) propose:

Amnesty for Dreamers, meaning DACA beneficiaries and other illegal aliens who arrived before June 15, 2012 (or claim to have) and were younger than age 17 (or claim to be) but did not qualify for or obtain DACA benefits. It is uncertain how much larger than the DACA program this amnesty would be.

DACA beneficiaries would have a period of conditional permanent residency, which may be lifted upon completing at least two years of college or military service or three years of work, or may simply lead directly to eligibility for citizenship after at least 10 years (or 12 if they did not have DACA).

The Dreamer amnesty would allow waivers for certain criminal convictions that exist under current law, if deemed to be "in the public interest."

Applicants for the program would have to pay up on any federal tax liability, if they had a DACA work permit, but not if they worked illegally prior to legalization. Does this mean that a lot of DACA beneficiaries have not been paying their taxes all these years?

The Gang of Six claims to address chain migration concerns by barring legalized Dreamers from sponsoring their parents for green cards. Instead, they give the parents instant, indefinitely renewable legal status and work permits, thus exacerbating the labor market disruption and fiscal costs of the presence of these illegal aliens.

The proposal claims to restrict chain migration, by eliminating the category for adult sons and daughters of green card holders, which admits about 26,000 people a year. However, it transfers those numbers to another chain migration category for spouses of green card holders and their children. So there is no net decrease in chain migration at all under this proposal.

 

Similarly, the proposal claims to end the visa lottery, but it preserves the numbers. It plans to take half of the lottery visas currently available and awards them to applicants from lottery countries, based on merit. The other half of the visas would be awarded to aliens who currently have Temporary Protected Status. When those run out (which would take at least 12 years), then all of the former lottery visas would go to applicants from countries in the new merit lottery program. So there would be no decrease in annual green cards.

Finally, the Gang agrees to fund the president's request for $1.6 billion for the border wall, $1.1 billion for other border security projects, and miscellaneous other border-related projects on a smaller scale.

There is no funding for ICE or interior enforcement, no expansion of E-Verify, nor any provisions to address the broken asylum system, sanctuary cities, the continued influx of illegal families and minors from Central America, visa overstays, an entry-exit system, the backlogged immigration court, illegal employment, or any of the other needs compiled at the president's request prepared by career immigration agency officials and outlined in an October memo.

This proposal is not a serious effort to find common ground with either the majority of congressional Republicans or the president. It pays only lip service to what is required to achieve the immigration policy improvements that Americans seek, and that they elected Donald Trump to accomplish.

Jessica M. Vaughan is Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a research institute in Washington DC.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by the Center for Immigration Studies.


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