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Senators Kaine, Warner, Others Unveil Bipartisan Amendment to Protect Dreamers, Strengthen Border Security

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From Sen. Tim Kaine’s office:

Senators Unveil Bipartisan Amendment to Protect Dreamers, Strengthen Border Security
8 Republicans, 7 Democrats, and 1 Independent Introduce Legislation 

Click HERE to read the text of the amendment

Washington, D.C. — A bipartisan group of 16 Senators unveiled legislation this evening to protect “Dreamers” and to strengthen border security.  The Senators are part of the Common Sense Coalition, a group of 25 Republican, Democratic, and Independent Senators convened by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who have been meeting nearly every day in Senator Collins’ office to develop a framework to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other immigration issues.

The lead sponsors of the legislation are Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME), and the original cosponsors include Senators: Collins, Manchin, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

“Our bipartisan proposal takes meaningful steps to enhance border security, adds limits to chain migration and permanently deals with DACA recipients,” said Senator Rounds.  “The $25 billion allotted for border security is a historic investment in our nation’s borders that will strengthen our ability to keep bad actors out of the country and keep Americans safe. It is a significant improvement from the status quo and will allow us to continue the dialogue as we seek to keep our borders safe and reform our immigration system to one that is merit-based.”

“Nearly everybody involved in this process has expressed a desire to help these young people, and that’s exactly what our bipartisan group, under the leadership of Senator Collins, has been working towards. Let’s help them, rather than getting bogged down in complicated, comprehensive and unrelated changes to our immigration policy,” said Senator King.  “I hope our amendment will get the votes we need to take these young men and women out of limbo and ensure their legal status in the country they call home.”

“Following the reopening of the government last month, members of our Common Sense Coalition saw that immigration was beginning to fracture along partisan lines.  We met continuously so that Senators could discuss this important issue and reach consensus,” said Senator Collins.  “Our legislation underscores the broad, bipartisan commitment to creating a path to citizenship for Dreamers, who were brought to this country illegally through no decision of their own, while strengthening border security to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants as well as drugs like heroin that are ruining lives.”

“This compromise shows the American people what Congress can get done when we work in a bipartisan way and put politics aside. I’m glad we could work through these complicated issues in a constructive way in order to secure our border and solve some difficult immigration issues that I think both sides can support,” Senator Manchin said.

“Our proposal would represent the most significant change to immigration law in the past thirty-five years,” said Senator Graham.  “Providing President Trump with $25 billion for the Wall system he campaigned on is a giant step forward for border security.  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. This will allow them to pursue their lives with certainty and stability in the United States – the only country they know. This is a substantial down payment on fixing a broken immigration system and truly is a win-win.”

“We’ve reached a deal that gives us the best chance to protect Dreamers against deportation from the only country they know as home,” said Senator Kaine. “This is a true compromise, which includes the significant boost in border security funding our Republican colleagues and President Trump have been asking for. I’ve worked across the aisle for weeks with this large group of Republicans and Democrats to reach this deal, and I hope my colleagues will join us in showing that the Senate can solve tough problems.”

“I’m pleased to be part of this group of Republicans and Democrats who are working together to make a law, rather than a point,” said Senator Flake.  “A broadly-supported, bipartisan bill that protects DACA recipients and strengthens border security ought to be able to get 60 votes in the Senate. Let’s put it on the floor and work together to get it passed.”

“This bipartisan legislation represents our best opportunity to make long overdue changes to our immigration laws that will allow 1.8 million Dreamers to live without fear of deportation, make robust investments in border security, and ensure that family reunification remains one of the core values of our immigration system,” said Senator Coons. “This process has not been easy, and this bill is not perfect, but Delawareans sent me to the Senate to not only fight for our values, but to also work across the aisle to get things done.  While this isn’t the bill I would have drafted, I believe this is a good, honest compromise, and I will support it on the Senate floor tomorrow.”

“Our immigration system is broken and we need to fix it,” said Senator Gardner. “There are many children who came to this country without documentation and we need to allow them the opportunity to remain here lawfully. This legislation addresses some of the largest challenges our broken immigration system faces, including a major boost to border security, and I urge members on both sides of the aisle that want a solution to support our bipartisan approach.”

“This agreement is full of tough compromises, but it shows that when senators really want to find bipartisan solutions, it’s possible,” said Senator Heitkamp. “That’s the whole purpose of the Common Sense Coalition – to work together, Republicans and Democrats, to reach results for the American people – and I hope Congress passes our deal. I’m proud to have been part of this group that worked together to reopen the government in 2013 and last month. And now we’re doing it again by forging a deal that both provides a permanent solution to those who came to our country as children through no fault of their own while boosting border security at all of our borders.”

“I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort,” said Senator Murkowski. “The amendment seeks to protect the Dreamers while strengthening our border security and I am encouraged by the time and effort we have spent as a group trying to achieve a consensus on this difficult issue. I hope we can get to a final bill that protects the Dreamers and look forward to the debate.”

“This bipartisan agreement finally allows DREAMers a pathway to citizenship so that they no longer have to live in fear of deportation,” said Senator Shaheen. “Time is of the essence and I urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support this proposal so that DREAMers can finally move on with their lives. This agreement further demonstrates the necessity of good faith bipartisan discussions and the need for compromise to get things done. I look forward to continued participation with the Common Sense Caucus to make further progress on the many challenges facing our country.”

“My goal is to get a result on both border security and DACA so I will cosponsor and vote for Senator Grassley’s legislation implementing the president’s proposal. I will also cosponsor and vote for this narrower bipartisan proposal offered by Senators Rounds and King because it too solves the DACA problem and provides the $25 billion the president requested to improve border security,” said Senator Alexander.

“We can’t wait any longer to find a solution for the DREAMers and this bipartisan agreement – which was a product of working across the aisle with my colleagues for the past several weeks – includes a path to citizenship. I am hopeful it can get strong bipartisan support in the Senate,”said Senator Klobuchar.

“We have a real opportunity to secure our borders and address some of the issues in our immigration system,” said Senator Isakson. “I’m committed to continuing to work toward real solutions, and this legislation will help meet many of these goals.”

“This is a bipartisan solution that will provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers whose status in this country was left in limbo when the administration announced it was ending the DACA program,” said Senator Warner.  “This amendment certainly isn’t perfect, but I believe it is a suitable compromise and the best path forward for the Senate to advance legislation on this critical issue.”

Highlights of the bipartisan proposal include:

Legal Status and Path to Citizenship for Young People Brought to the US as Children.

The amendment provides legal status and a path to citizenship to individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children. Individuals who are registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program automatically qualify, if they arrived in this country by June 15, 2007, unless they have engaged in conduct that would make them ineligible. To obtain legal status, individuals not enrolled in the DACA program must:

*         Have been continuously present in the U.S. since June 15, 2012, the date of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Executive Order;

*         Have been under age 18 when they entered the U.S., and under age 38 on June 15, 2012;

*         Meet educational requirements or be serving in the U.S. Armed Forces (or have been honorably discharged from military service); and

*         Pass background checks, medical exams, and register for the Selective Service, if applicable.

Individuals do not qualify if they are convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors. Individuals are required to pay any federal tax liability incurred while working legally in the U.S.

Beneficiaries can apply for citizenship after 12 years, and up to 2 years of credit will be given for time with DACA.

PROHIBITION ON DACA BENEFICIARIES SPONSORING THEIR PARENTS FOR CITIZENSHIP

The amendment includes language prohibiting parents from using their Dreamer children’s newly granted citizenship to apply for citizenship themselves.

BORDER SECURITY

The amendment authorizes and appropriates $25 billion in funding for Northern and Southern border security over the next 10 years.  The bill requires DHS to provide detailed reports to Congress on its security plan, including physical barriers, fencing, tactical infrastructure, technology, personnel, and the milestones for implementing this plan.

Funding after the first year is released each year once the DHS Secretary certifies that at least 75 percent of the goals for the prior year have been reached.  Sixty votes would be required in order to prevent funding for each fiscal year.

The bill also directs the Secretary to prioritize enforcement resources against aliens who:

*         Have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanors;

*         Are a threat to national security or public safety; or

*         Are unlawfully present and arrived in the U.S. after June 30, 2018.