A report that two senators have struck a tentative deal on granting a pathway to citizenship to 2 million illegal immigrants inflamed debate Monday, with immigration activists saying they hope lawmakers can speed something through before the GOP takes control of the House next year.
An Arizona Democrat and a North Carolina Republican agreed on the framework, according to a columnist for The Washington Post.
It would grant a permanent legal status to illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” while pumping money into processing new border jumpers with an eye to trying to speed up their cases and deport them more quickly.
While things get ramped up, the administration would be authorized to keep ousting illegal immigrants at the border under something akin to the pandemic policy that’s been in effect since 2020, but which a judge has ordered to expire later this month.
Backers are working under a tight timeframe. They need to act while Democrats still control the House.
The framework, circulated in draft form on Capitol Hill, was negotiated by Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.
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Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Judiciary Committee that has jurisdiction over immigration policy, cheered the effort, and the chance to deliver a bill to the president’s desk before power shifts on Capitol Hill.
“I’ve been in touch with my colleagues and will carefully review their proposal,” he said. “I am determined to do everything in my power to help deliver a Christmas Miracle for Dreamers.”
With the Senate split 50-50 right now, it would take at least 10 Republicans to sign on to the deal. And it would take the agreement of both parties’ leaders to reach the floor this month, likely as an add-on to a broader bill.
R.J. Hauman, head of government relations and communications at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, urged Republicans to shun the “amnesty deal.”
“You can tweet about the border crisis all you want, but quietly negotiating an eleventh-hour mass amnesty deal shows where your true priorities lie,” he said.
But the National Immigration Forum’s president called the negotiations “a strong step forward.”
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“This is exactly the kind of bipartisan problem-solving Americans want,” Jennie Murray said. “Americans know we need these kinds of solutions to address inflation, labor turmoil and border challenges.”
Talk of a deal comes as the Biden administration has overseen the worst border numbers in history.
The crux of the new deal is citizenship rights for Dreamers, coupled with a more stringent approach to new illegal immigrants showing up.
Many of the newcomers are being drawn by the belief — often correct — that they can show up, be caught at the border, lodge iffy asylum claims, and be released into communities on the often futile hope that they’ll show up for their hearings and eventual deportation.
Immigration cases can take five years or longer, giving migrants plenty of incentive to make the attempt.
Under the new deal, those cases are supposed to be sped up, so newcomers with bogus claims would be ousted more quickly. The hope is that if people in sending countries see people failing to gain a foothold, fewer will try.