House Republican leaders on Thursday released a draft of immigration legislation that would provide legal protections for undocumented young people known as DREAMers while also providing more than $23 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico.
That funding will be combined with $1.6 billion already appropriated to reach President Trump's required $25 billion.
The draft legislation, circulated by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other leaders to rank-and-file GOP lawmakers, is intended to be a compromise on an issue that has bitterly divided the party. A vote is likely next week, but it is unclear if the legislation has the votes to pass or if President Trump will back it.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the GOP proposal.
On one of the most divisive issues, the draft proposal would allow an estimated 1.8 million DREAMers to apply for “nonimmigrant status”– essentially a conditional legal visa – if they meet certain conditions. They must, for example, have a high school diploma or GED and must be under 36 years of age as of June 15.
To keep the overall immigration numbers low, those conditional visas would be taken from new restrictions on legal immigration; the GOP bill would nix a diversity lottery program and limit family-based immigration.
If the DREAMers win that nonimmigrant status, then after six years, they can apply for a green card, which will set them on the path to eventual citizenship.
It would also leave in place current immigration provisions that allow adult U.S. citizens to apply for green cards for their parents, and there are no limits on how many people can receive that legal immigration status.
That is likely to spark strong opposition from immigration hawks, because it will allow the DREAMers – once they have become citizens – to seek citizenship for their parents.
“This bill is an amnesty for the parents of DACAs as well,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports restricting immigration.
Krikorian said those parents would be “rewarded for bringing their kids here illegally when the whole rationale” of the bill is to help those who are here illegally through no fault of their own.
The draft, obtained by USA TODAY, would also seek to avoid separating immigrant children from their parents. It's one of two
The bill does not include a mandate for e-verify, which would require employers to check whether their workers are legally allowed to work in the U.S. Conservative Republicans wanted to see e-verify included in the compromise legislation because they are concerned such a measure won't pass on its own. Business-friendly Republicans oppose making that mandatory.
Ryan committed to bringing up the compromise bill along with a separate piece of legislation put together by conservative Republicans. The House could vote on the two competing bills as early as Thursday.
Ryan's decision to schedule the votes was an effort to tamp down a growing rebellion from GOP moderates. But neither piece of legislation is guaranteed to pass.
Trump ended DACA last fall and gave Congress six months to find a solution. Lawmakers failed to act, but they were given some cover when the courts ruled that DACA needed to remain in place as the court cases proceeded. Democrats and some moderate Republicans decided Congress must act and threatened to team up on a rare maneuver that would force Congress to vote on a series of proposals with the likely winner being a bipartisan bill. Ryan was able to avoid the embarrassment Tuesday night when he announced the scheduled votes and stopped the so-called "discharge petition" from getting the required signatures to go around him and force the votes.
The conservative proposal, which Trump supports, would cut legal immigration, strengthen border security, and provide temporary legal status to the DREAMers. That bill likely lacks the votes to pass because of opposition by moderates.
Both Republican measures are unlikely to get support from Democrats who oppose the border wall spending and want more robust protections for DREAMers.
Even if one of the bills does pass the House, it is unlikely to make it through the Senate, where legislation requires 60 votes to pass. Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona has been in Arizona all of 2018 fighting brain cancer. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he'd be open to bringing up legislation only if it had Trump's support.