There is Still a Deal to be Had: Extend DACA indefinitely and Fund the Wall

Although President Trump tweeted “NO MORE DACA DEAL!,” and “DACA is dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act,” Representative Scott Taylor (R-VA) said there is still “a deal to be had." Trump has also urged Congress to craft a “bill of love” and said he would sign any immigration bill that protects Dreamers and secures the border that the Senate passes with 60 votes; so his recent tweets condemning DACA may just be playing hardball in the art of the deal. 

"I still believe that there is a deal to be had that has more security, that has more disincentives for future illegal immigration and that has a fix for DACA,” Taylor said. “I know that the president just said something, but I don’t think that’s a hard, fast position… I think that we should have a deal. I think that we should come to a solution that, again, has border security, again, has future disincentives, but also deals with that population.”

In January, the White House released a framework on immigration reform and border security that asked for funding for border security and a wall, a 10-12 year pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million qualifying undocumented immigrants, stricter requirements for family-based migration, and an elimination and repurposing of the visa lottery program. Trump’s framework was much more generous in terms of protecting Dreamers than the DACA program that Obama established through an arguably illegal executive order, in that it provides a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers brought to America illegally as children through no fault of their own in comparison to the renewable temporary legal status for 700,000 Dreamers DACA provides, so one might have thought that it would have been supported by enough Democrat Senators to pass.

However, when Trump's framework was put to a vote, in the form of a 592-page amendment sponsored by Senator Grassely, Cornyn, Tillis, Lankford, Perdue, Cotton and Ernst, it only received 39 yea votes, mainly from Republicans, which is 21 votes short of the number it needed to pass through the Senate. The bill’s unpopularity was mainly due to the fact that it not only proposed the tightening of eligibility requirements for family based migration following the completion of the current backlog of 680,000 immigration cases and 4 million people waiting in line for family based visas, but included a reduction in future family based immigration levels. Because no measure was included to make up for these cuts with a new type of undetermined merit based immigration like Trump has called for in the past, the amendment would have resulted in a significant net decrease in future immigration levels.

With a rapidly growing economy, the lowest unemployment rate the US has seen since 2000, and an aging population demographic, the US needs more workers to continue its rate of economic growth and to circumvent an impending labor crisis. With that said, deporting the prime working aged and educated DACA recipients with clean criminal records would be detrimental thing to do in this economic situation, so a legislative solution to protect them is not only the right thing to do morally, but it is also in the best interests of Americans economically. Furthermore, pre-determining future levels of legal immigration could be disadvantageous to the majority of Americans by potentially stifling our nation’s overall economic growth.

While there are certainly unique benefits to family based immigration and merit based immigration, a formula to determine what qualifies who as the most ideal immigrant to the United States would be difficult to determine, and almost impossible for law makers to agree upon. While possessing the skills to instantly and directly contribute to the American economy in sectors where specific types of skilled labor is needed may qualify an immigrant as having merit and thus imeediate value to the American economy, according Zuzana Jerabek of the National Immigration Forum, having family members in America already can help “newcomers better understand American culture, standards and institutions...Adult children, siblings and parents also play a crucial role in caring for children and family members as they age. Such assistance may allow others in the family to work longer and thus contribute more to the U.S. economy."

As such, family based migration holds a significant amount of merit in its own way. While an ideal merit based system of immigration would certainly have to consider family members in the US as a factor comprising merit, because of the controversial nature of and differing opinions on family based migration, it should be left later discussion when the need for legislation to fund border security and protect DACA recipients is not as pressing.

For now, the president and Congress should focus on finding a solution that helps fix and prevent illegal immigration instead of trying to adjust legal immigration.

With that being said, a simple DACA for Border Security bill may have the best chance of garnering enough bi-partisan votes to become law. Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (R-SD) has authored straightforward legislation that would extend DACA benefits indefinitely and establish a $25 billion trust fund for border-security funding. This may be the best chance the president will get to secure funding for the wall he promised, and it would fulfill the wishes of 87% of Americans who believe that DACA recipients should be allowed to stay.

 

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