WASHINGTON – The US Senate set the stage on Monday for a historic open debate on the contentious issue of immigration, giving lawmakers the chance to start from scratch in pursuit of a proposal that can win the 60 votes needed to pass.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised Democrats a discussion of immigration in exchange for their willingness to end a government shutdown they had forced in hopes of getting Republicans to approve a permanent solution for beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Launched in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama, DACA has protected some 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Last September, President Donald Trump announced that he would end DACA on March 5, 2018, and urged Congress to pass legislation to regularize the situation of the beneficiaries, known as “Dreamers.”
Trump recently put forward an immigration plan that includes a path to citizenship for roughly 1.8 million undocumented young people, while simultaneously demanding $25 billion to build his proposed wall on the Mexican border.
The president’s proposal would also place significant new limits to legal immigration, by restricting the issuance of family-reunification visas and eliminating the visa lottery.
While seven Senate Republicans have written a draft incorporating Trump’s priorities, Democrats – and some GOP moderates – are adamantly opposed to the White House position.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a co-sponsor of the original 2001 DREAM Act to benefit undocumented youths, and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham have a proposal to protect the Dreamers, eliminate the visa lottery and partially fund the border wall.
With the Senate divided 51-49 between Republicans and Democrats, no bill can gain the necessary 60 votes without bipartisan support.
Trump has said that he will not sign legislation that doesn’t include money for the wall and limit family migration.