The Senate’s new immigration compromise not only grants legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before, but creates a new future amnesty that would even protect illegal immigrants who managed to sneak into the U.S. over the next four months, experts said.
Not only would the bill enshrine Obama-era deportation rules, protecting most of the current 11 million illegal immigrants from fear of removal, but it extends those same protections to any illegal immigrants who can jump the border between now and June 30.
The Homeland Security Department said the plan “destroys” their ability to enforce immigration laws, and would amount to an “amnesty for over 10 million illegal aliens.”
The 64-page deal, struck by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and eight Republicans rebelling against President Trump, could see a vote as early as Thursday.
Those who want to see stricter immigration controls predicted a wave of new illegal immigrants would stream to the U.S. over the next four months to try to get in under the bill’s deadline.
“These sponsors have taken President Trump’s 1.8 million [person] amnesty and turned it into amnesty for all the illegals who are here, and however many can get here by June 30. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager at NumbersUSA, which pushes for stricter immigration controls.
“It is shameful that Republicans would sign on to something that invites illegal immigration. I mean they are actually putting out an invitation. It is just amazing,” she said.
The key language is on the last page of the amendment which Mr. Schumer introduced last Wednesday.
The bill reads: “In carrying out immigration enforcement activities, the secretary shall prioritize available immigration enforcement resources to aliens who … arrived in the United States after June 30, 2018.”
Originally it said Jan. 1, 2018, but that part was struck out and the future date was penned in, suggesting the choice was deliberate.
A request to Mr. Schumer’s office for comment late Wednesday was not returned.
In addition to the future amnesty, the bill would grant citizenship rights to perhaps 1.8 million illegal immigrant Dreamers, while also allocating $25 billion for border security, including a wall, over the next decade. The bill, however, lacks any change to the Diversity Visa Lottery or to the chain of family migration — both conditions President Trump had set for any bill.
Despite violating the White House’s standards, eight Republicans have joined Mr. Schumer and other Democrats as sponsors of the future amnesty: Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Corey Gardner of Colorado, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
Confusingly, both Mr. Alexander and Mr. Isakson also signed onto GOP leaders’ much stiffer immigration plan, at about the same time they were signing up as sponsors of the future amnesty plan.
The two senators said their goal is to protect Dreamers and do something on border security, and they are willing to work on any plans that do that.
Homeland Security pulled no punches in blasting the plan.
“The Schumer-Rounds-Collins proposal destroys the ability of the men and women from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to remove millions of illegal aliens,” the department said. “It would be the end of immigration enforcement in America and only serve to draw millions more illegal aliens with no way to remove them.”
“By halting immigration enforcement for all aliens who arrived before June 2018, it ignores the lessons of 9/11 and significantly increases the risk of crime and terrorism,” Homeland Security officials said in a memo.
Mr. Graham lashed back, saying he was “incredibly disappointed” in Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “for allowing her office to become so politicized.”
“It seems as if DHS is intent on acting less like a partner and more like an adversary,” Mr. Graham said. “Instead of offering thoughts and advice — or even constructive criticism — they are acting more like a political organization intent on poisoning the well.
Mr. Graham’s plan might have legs. With the eight GOP sponsors on board, and if all 49 members of the Democratic caucus backed the plan, it would be within three votes of the 60 needed to clear the Senate.
But its fate beyond the Senate is murky.
House Republican leaders have said they won’t allow a vote on any bill Mr. Trump couldn’t sign — and he’s already called a similar plan “weak.”
Beyond that, the future amnesty provision is likely to be a problem even for some GOP House lawmakers looking for a bipartisan deal.
Ms. Jenks said she suspected even some of the Senate sponsors didn’t know what they were agreeing to.
“I would hope that some of these Republicans and some of the Democrats would take their names off this when they find this out. It is just stunning,” she said.