Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and a bipartisan group of 15 other senators unveiled legislation to protect DACA recipients 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 Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who have been meeting nearly every day in Collins’ office to develop a framework to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and other immigration issues.
The lead sponsors of the legislation are Sens. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, and Angus King, I-Maine, and the original cosponsors include Sens. Coons; Collins; Manchin; Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; Tim Kaine, D-Virginia; Jeff Flake, R-Arizona; Cory Gardner, R-Colorado; Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire; Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota; Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia; and Mark Warner, D-Virginia.
“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 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.”
The proposal includes a legal status and path to citizenship for young people brought to the U.S. as children. The amendment provides legal status and a path to citizenship to individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children. To obtain this status, these individuals must:
— Have arrived in this country by June 15, 2007, in most cases.
— 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 younger than 18 when they entered the U.S., and younger than 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.
— Pay any federal tax liability incurred while working legally in the U.S.
— 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 who are registered under the DACA program automatically qualify unless they have engaged in conduct would make them ineligible. DACA registrants may apply for permanent legal residency after seven years and for citizenship after 10 years. Others who are eligible could apply after 12 years.
The amendment also includes language prohibiting parents from using their children’s newly granted citizenship to apply for citizenship themselves.
Also, the amendment authorizes and appropriates $25 billion in funding for northern and southern border security during 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 Department of Homeland Security 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.