Sen. Thom Tillis warned congressional Democrats not to expect a “one-sided deal” to address so-called Dreamers just because Congress faces a tough test to keep the government open.
The North Carolina Republican is part of a group of lawmakers negotiating on the immigration issue and said Republicans will engage with Democrats this week in hopes of moving forward.
“We’re making it very clear to (Democrats) that if they think a year-end deal that threatens a shutdown is a pure Dreamers-DACA codification, that they’re probably going to lose that battle,” Tillis told McClatchy.
He has sought what he calls a balanced approach to dealing with Dreamers – certain immigrants who, as children, were brought into the United States illegally by their parents.
Many of them were protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, an executive order from former President Barack Obama. But President Donald Trump said he would end DACA, which conservatives call unconstitutional, while giving Congress until March to preserve the program through legislation.
Tillis introduced the SUCCEED Act in September. It would allow DACA recipients to obtain conditional permanent resident status and after 10 years would upgrade them to permanent status provided they met certain requirements. He wants to pair it up with enhanced border security and has endorsed a measure by Sen. John Cornyn with tougher immigration enforcement.
The requirements in Tillis’ bill are stricter than in the DREAM Act, Democrats’ preferred method for dealing with the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients.
Congress faces a Dec. 8 deadline to fund the government and keep it open. It could proceed with a short-term agreement or a series of them to fund the government into the new year. Trump told Republican senators, including Tillis, during a White House meeting in early November that a Dreamer fix should not be part of the year-end negotiations.
Democrats hold some leverage because some conservative House Republicans are not willing to vote for the spending deals, and the bill would need 60 votes in the Senate where Republicans hold 52 seats.
Several high-profile Democratic senators, including Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, along with independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont have vowed not to support a spending bill without Dreamer protections.
Two South Florida Republicans — Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — said they would not support a spending deal without protections for Dreamers.
Tillis warned his counterparts not to overplay their hand.
“If a year-end deal had the balance that we’ve been proposing ever since we announced the SUCCEED Act, yes,” Tillis said. “But if it’s a one-sided deal they think they can get just because they’re going to come to the table and see who blinks, they’re making a mistake.”
Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC