Congress working on last-minute immigration deal


A handful of bipartisan senators are working to reach a separate 11th-hour immigration deal before Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January and make the politically tricky deal harder to reach.

Feel. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (RN.C.) outline a potential immigration proposal that would provide a path to legalization for the 2 million undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as For the Dreamers, in exchange for at least $25 billion in increased funding for border patrol and border security. The shifting bipartisan framework also extends Title 42 for at least a year until the new “regional processing centers” enshrined in the bill are built, according to a Senate aide. The Trump administration instituted Article 42 amid the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that immediate deportation of immigrants was necessary due to the public health crisis.

Meanwhile, Sens. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are negotiating a narrower bill based on a House-passed measure that provided some undocumented farm workers with Pathways to citizenship. Senators have yet to reach a deal, but hope to reach one by the end of this month’s lame-duck session, according to a person familiar with the talks. Describe the situation candidly.

Congress faces the end of another term without addressing immigration reform, as the U.S. prepares to end mass deportations at the U.S.-Mexico border, and a federal judge could end an Obama-era program that shielded Dreamers from deportation.

Feel. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (RN.C.) outline a plan that would provide a path to legalization for 2 million undocumented immigrants. (Video: The Washington Post)

While negotiations are underway on possible legislation, Congress is unlikely to address changes this term as both houses race to prioritize preventing a government shutdown and passing defense spending with just three weeks left. As the U.S. faces worker shortages, the Senate has not considered two bipartisan bills introduced by the House in March 2021 that would have expanded protections for Deferred Action for Child Arrivals and farm workers.

A ruling that could have ended DACA fell in October, bringing Democrats in both houses of Congress back to the negotiating table. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are urging their Democratic Senate colleagues to take action, while House Democrats still hold a majority, knowing that any proposal that has any chance of becoming law must be voted on in the Senate, which requires at least 10 Republican votes. Pass legislation.

In addition to protecting the 2 million Dreamers, the Sinema and Tillis draft would allocate funds for border security, hire more officers and raise agent wages. Additional border security and detention funding would exceed the $25 billion requested by President Donald Trump in his 2018 border proposal and could even top $40 billion, a Senate aide said. The proposal also includes changes to the state’s asylum process and would preserve Title 42 until regional processing centers are built to accommodate migrants.

The centers would mirror what was outlined in the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, a bicameral agreement introduced last year, and would hold migrants while immigration cases are heard and adjudicated more quickly, replacing the current release of many asylum seekers and full Court hearings, which can take months or years. A federal judge in the District of Columbia last month ordered the government to halt Section 42 deportations by Dec. 12. twenty one.

Senators have yet to vote to see if their loose framework can win the support needed to overcome the filibuster, and details of the proposal could change to gain more support, two people familiar with the talks between Sinema and Tillis said. Lawmakers hope to secure support before the end of the year, but time is running out and the group faces serious difficulties with major legislative matters still undecided. Depending on who wins the Georgia Senate runoff, Democrats will need nine or 10 Republicans to pass any legislation in the new year. Given the criticism of Title 42 by many Democrats and the reluctance of some Republicans to provide a path to legalization for any immigrants, the framework contains provisions that could be politically risky for support on both the left and right.

Mori. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who co-authored an immigration bill with Sinema that borrows heavily from the border portion of the framework, said he was not involved in the negotiations, illustrating how difficult the road to legislation has been.

“I’ve said to them that I don’t think we can pass immigration legislation without addressing the border crisis,” Cornyn said. He added that what he said was weak enforcement by the Biden administration made it “nearly impossible” to improve the legal immigration system.

Mori. Senate immigration leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he hadn’t seen the draft framework but was “good to see the conversation is going on.”

Immigration has been a politically toxic issue for decades, and Republicans, who previously held the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, privately warned that any bipartisan deal would be too “soft” on immigration as the far right of the conference deemed it too “soft.” Impossible to get anything done.

House Republicans have publicly said their top priority is to investigate Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas’ leadership at the border. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is trying to become the next Speaker, last month gave Mayorkas an ultimatum to step down or face an investigation that could lead to his impeachment.

Incorporating Title 42 into a possible immigration framework could appeal to Republicans, who have publicly blasted the Biden administration for dropping the title to stop the growing flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States.

Some senators remain skeptical that the House Republican majority can actually reach a deal on immigration after the House failed to pass a compromise bill in 2018 following outrage from the right wing of the session. Six Republican members have privately expressed the need for farm workers to fill jobs in their rural communities, but they know that even a bipartisan measure would likely face resistance from staunch conservatives.

The House will vote this week on two immigration bills that would phase out state caps on employment-based immigrant visas and provide residency to noncitizen veterans who could face deportation. Given the limited time until the end of the year to pass non-appropriations-related bills, neither bill is expected to be considered by the Senate.

While Republicans remain privately skeptical that a divided Congress will be able to reach an immigration deal that will reach President Biden’s desk before the 2024 election, some pragmatic House Republicans, especially Hispanic lawmakers, are fighting with Democrats. Keep in touch to find consensus so they can pass legislation with extremely thin margins.

“I’m looking for partners, and in this political environment it’s hard to find partners who want to have a real conversation. But we’re still able to do it,” said Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-Tex.) said before referring to the bipartisan border solution he is proposing with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.).

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), who has made immigration reform a key platform during her tenure in the House, said she began negotiations with Democrats and Republicans to restore her immigration-related Dignity Act next term .

“There is no way we can close the border and not take care of illegal immigrants. This is the right thing to do,” she said. “In order to continue to grow our economy, we need the hands of immigrants.”

Yet public policy groups continue to increase pressure on Congress to act. Kristie De Peña, vice president for policy at the Niskanen Center, on Monday endorsed what she called the “historic” Sinema-Tillis framework because its adoption would represent “a meaningful step toward improving our immigration system.”

President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012 to allow undocumented immigrants who came of age in the United States to apply for work authorization, clearing the way for many to attend college or trade school and obtain a driver’s license. More than 825,000 immigrants have benefited from the program, but active enrollment has dropped to 594,120, according to the most recent federal report on June 30.

Most DACA recipients are from Mexico (480,160), but they come from dozens of countries.

DACA has been limited to immigrants who arrived in the United States before June 15, 2007, which excludes thousands of immigrants who have arrived since. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 38 percent of children arrive in the United States before the age of 5.

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