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McCain, Coons propose narrow DACA, border compromise

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Sens. John McCain and Chris Coons – an Arizona Republican and a Delaware Democrat – introduced legislation today that takes aim at several unresolved immigration issues with the hope of resolving the long-running and contentious Capitol Hill debate.

The legislation would deal with the soon-to-expire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that lets young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents stay in the country without fear of deportation. President Donald Trump canceled the Obama-era program in October with a six-month grace period that ends on March 5 without a legislative fix.

The McCain-Coons measure would allow so-called Dreamers who have enrolled in the DACA program to remain in the country and would also extend them the option of securing permanent U.S. citizenship.

The McCain-Coons bill also authorizes a study of needed border security enhancements but stops short of providing the $25 to $30 billion the White House has said is needed to build a wall. Additionally, it would boost resources for immigration courts to help process a deep backlog of cases.

Trump seemed to reject the proposal in a Monday morning tweet.

“Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time,” the president tweeted. “March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!”

The bipartisan bill introduced Monday would not restrict family-based migration or end the visa lottery system for immigrants as Trump has demanded.

The McCain-Coons bill is an identical companion to a bill already pending in the U.S. House and sponsored by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, that has evenly-split bipartisan support of more than 80 members.  Democratic Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan are sponsors of the bill. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., is not.

“The USA Act is fair, bipartisan, targeted legislation that provides Dreamers with certainty, enacts common sense border security measures, and should be passed without delay,” Lujan Grisham said.

The McCain-Coons proposal comes with another government shutdown looming at midnight Thursday if the House and Senate can’t agree on a spending plan. Democrats’ refusal to accept a long-term spending deal without a DACA fix briefly led to a shutdown in January, before both chambers agreed to a temporary stopgap spending measure to keep government open while immigration negotiations resumed.

“For months, I have been calling on my colleagues to complete a bipartisan budget agreement to lift the caps on defense spending and fully fund the military,” McCain said Monday. “While reaching a deal cannot come soon enough for America’s service members, the current political reality demands bipartisan cooperation to address the impending expiration of the DACA program and secure the southern border.

“Our legislation, which already has broad support in the House of Representatives, would address the most urgent priorities of protecting Dreamers, strengthening border security, alleviating the backlog in immigration courts, and addressing the root causes of illegal immigration,” McCain added.

“The bill I’m introducing with Senator McCain today doesn’t solve every immigration issue, but it does address the two most pressing problems we face: protecting DACA recipients and securing the border,” Coon said. “I believe there is bipartisan support for both of those things and I believe that we can reach a budget deal that increases funding for our military and important domestic programs. We need to find a way through this gridlock to get Congress working again, and this is a viable path forward.”



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