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What's in the immigration bills the Senate is debating?

Senate begins immigration debate
Senators look for a DACA solution ahead of March 5 deadline 09:27

The Senate is currently debating a number of immigration bills ahead of the March 5th deadline to do something about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. That's the Obama-era initative, which was later cancelled by President Trump.The program provided legal protections for "Dreamers," who are immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Mr. Trump ended DACA in September and gave Congress until March 5th to replace it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised an open-ended debate on a DACA replacement as part of a deal with Democrats to end last month's brief government shutdown. But it will be enormously difficult for Congress to pass any kind of replacement. Adding to the pressure, McConnell also wants to wrap up debate on the bill by the end of this week. 

For a DACA replacement to pass in the Senate, it will need 60 votes, meaning that any legislation will require substantial bipartisan support. It would also need to win over a majority of the more conservative House before it arrives on the president's desk. And Mr. Trump, a noted immigration hawk, has intimated that he will only sign a bill that includes provisions most Democrats abhor, such as funding for a wall along the southern border.

Here are some of the bills the Senate is debating this week, and why it'll be difficult for any of them to pass.

The Secure and Succeed Act

The Secure and Succeed Act is backed by Republican immigration hawks in the Senate, like Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton. It adheres closely to the White House's immigration framework, which was released by the administration ahead of last month's State of the Union address.

In broad strokes, the bill would provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA recipients, $25 billion in border security and wall funding, limits on family-based migration, and would eliminate the diversity visa lottery.

The bill's backers say it's the only legislation on the table that has a chance of becoming law and is a workable compromise because it protects nearly two million immigrants while also giving immigration hawks the security funding they want. "We shouldn't be focused on passing bill out of Senate, we should be focused on passing a law, something that can get the majority vote in the House and something that President Trump can sign," Cotton told CBS This Morning on Tuesday.

Not enough Democratic support: Although McConnell has said he supports the legislation, the Secure and Succeed Act is considered dead on arrival by lawmakers. That's because it would need not only uniform support from all 51 Republicans in the Senate, which is unlikely, but also at least 9 Democrats, who have balked at the proposal. So far, no Democrat has voiced support for this proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the chamber, is instead calling for a "narrow bill" because "now is not the time, nor the place, to reform the entire legal immigration system." Schumer and other Democrats want a fix for DACA recipients, with perhaps some extra border security funding to sweeten the pot for Republicans.


This bill has been introduced by the bipartisan team of Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. A companion bill in the House has 54 co-sponsors, with an even number of Republicans and Democrats. The bill would provide eventual citizenship for Dreamers. It would also provide money for a study on border security needs. But it neither includes any border wall funding, nor does it seek to curb future immigration by ending the extended family-based migration program, which the White House calls "chain migration." It also does not end the diversity visa lottery program Mr. Trump dislikes. The measure would provide more resources for immigration courts, which are dealing with severe backlogs. 

White House unlikely to support: The White House basically rejected the proposal before it was even officially introduced. It is unlikely to gain traction among conservative Republicans, in large part because it does nothing about so-called "chain migration," and doesn't appropriate border wall funding. The president has said any DACA deal that doesn't include border wall funding is a "total waste of time."


The bipartisan proposal was negotiated by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and reached in January. It would appropriate $2.7 billion in border security improvements, eliminate the diversity lottery program and would target the chain migration system. It would also provide a pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers" and would define eligibility criteria, including that recipients must have entered the U.S. by June 15, 2012. According to a spokesman for Graham, the plan would include $1.6 billion for a "border wall/barriers/fencing." 

White House rejects this: The plan -- the bill text of which was never formally introduced -- is also backed by Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Bob Menendez, R-New Jersey. But the White House has already dismissed the plan in no uncertain terms. "It's the opposite of what I campaigned for," Mr. Trump told Reuters about the bill in an interview last month


Most recently introduced by Graham, Durbin, and Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, the latest version of the DREAM Act would essentially codify the protections former President Barack Obama created for young immigrants. It would also provide a path to citizenship for those young immigrants.

Doesn't have wall funding White House wants: The president has tweeted that any DACA deal that doesn't include border wall funding is a "total waste of time." Aside from the White House, conservatives in Congress are also likely to oppose a solution that lacks funding for other border security measures, or any additional restrictions on future immigration. 

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