What Congress could do to protect young undocumented immigrants

The Trump administration’s plan to phase out the Obama-era program protecting hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation has put Congress under the gun to put forward a legislative fix.

While efforts to create a path to citizenship and legal status for “dreamers” have repeatedly stalled over the years, the administration has given Congress six months to produce a solution before it starts unwinding the program in March.

“Now we have a compelling reason, a timely reason” to act, said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

The last full-scale effort to tackle the issue came in 2013 when the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that included provisions for dreamers. The bill stalled in the Republican-controlled House over GOP divisions on immigration.

Here are several of the proposals currently circulating on Capitol Hill:

The Dream Act of 2017 — Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Dick Durbin, D-Illinois

The bipartisan bill, modeled on earlier proposals, would allow dreamers to obtain permanent residence and American citizenship if they graduate from high school or obtain a GED and work for at least three years, serve in the military or pursue higher education. The bill would require applicants without a history of serious crimes to demonstrate English proficiency, and pass law enforcement and security background checks.

A similar bill passed the Democrat-controlled House in 2010 but failed to advance in the Senate.

“Congress is going to have to up its game,” Graham said at a news conference with Durbin Tuesday.

Recognizing America’s Children Act — moderate House Republicans

Eighteen moderate House Republicans have endorsed a proposal to create a path to permanent residence and citizenship for high school graduates who do not rely on public assistance. Applicants would be able to apply for permanent residency if they pursue a college degree, serve in the military or stay employed over a five year period. Eventually, they would be able to apply for citizenship. Military personnel would be able to apply to naturalization immediately, rather than first applying for permanent residency.

It’s unclear if GOP leaders support Republicans’ initiative. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who voted against the Dream Act in the House in 2010, said Tuesday that Congress should “find consensus” on a permanent legislative solution to address the status of dreamers following the administration’s announcement.

The BRIDGE Act — Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado

A bipartisan proposal from Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, would temporarily extend protections for young undocumented immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented by the Obama administration and unraveled Tuesday by the Trump administration.

Applicants — young students and veterans who pass a criminal background check — would be shielded from deportation for three years. Much like the DACA program, the proposal would apply to undocumented immigrants born after June 15, 1981 who entered the United States before their 16th birthday and have lived in the U.S. since June 15th 2007.

In a tweet over the August recess, Coffman said he would attempt a rare parliamentary tactic to force a vote on his measure later this month.

Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, and Graham have introduced similar bills in the Senate this year.

Other efforts underway

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, announced plans Tuesday to introduce legislation that would require dreamers to be employed, serve in the military or pursue higher education.

Other Republicans have signaled a desire to pair any proposal with addition border security funding or additional immigration policies. Sen. Cotton, R-Arkansas, who is close to the White House, has offered to support a legislative package including the Dream Act and his own proposal to limit legal immigration into the United States — a bill strongly opposed by Democrats.

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