House leaders are drafting a sweeping immigration plan that would protect young immigrants who came to the United States as children while also making cuts to legal immigration, funding the border wall and making it harder for migrants to be granted asylum, according to a three-page draft of the specific proposal obtained by McClatchy.
Groups that want to slash the numbers of immigrants in the United States were being asked to review and comment on House leaders' proposal. A vote is expected next week. The groups received a draft of the proposal Wednesday.
The plan includes nine parts — many that have been pushed by President Donald Trump and conservative members of the House — and is likely to quickly be opposed by Democrats because of cuts to legal immigration.
It would provide a potential pathway to citizenship called a "special visa" for the young immigrants brought into the country illegally as minors, known as Dreamers, but would not force them to return to their home countries to apply for the special status.
The proposal also would:
- Provide $25 billion for construction of a border wall.
- End the lottery program that lets up to 55,000 immigrants be awarded green cards. Those slots would be passed to other immigrants, including some Dreamers.
- Enact new guidelines making it tougher for asylum seekers to get cases heard before judges. Saying they want to fight “asylum fraud,” the Republicans would increase the standard for asylum seekers to “more probable than not” when they make “credible fear of persecution” claims.
- Limit who could be sponsored for immigration to immediate family members. Such a change would equate to a massive reduction in legal immigration and slash a key tenet of the American policy that helps keep families together.
- Reduce overall legal immigration and redirect visas toward immigrants with special skills..
- Eliminate country-based annual cap on permanent residency approvals of employment based immigrants and vastly increase the numerical limitations for family-based immigrant approvals.
The text of the bill has not been released publicly by House leaders, but lawmakers confirm this document outlines the basics of the current proposal. An aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin did not respond to a request for comment.
"While we haven’t seen legislative text, it’s clear that the end product will be something hastily assembled to prevent passage of an even worse bill," said RJ Hauman, government relations director for Federation for American Immigration Reform. "It’s simply a maneuver, not a solution."
The plan is one of two bills the House is expected to consider next week as part of a compromise House Republicans reached Tuesday.
The second measure, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is similar, with limits to legal immigration and increased border security, but does not include a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
Democrats had hopes that a bill more to their liking would get a vote, but that's now unlikely. As a result, Republicans are likely to have a difficult time cobbling together a coalition to pass either bill.
House Democrats were reluctant to back either bill Wednesday. California Reps. Jimmy Gomez and Jim Costa, both Democrats, acknowledged the slim likelihood of getting an immigration deal they would support.
The deal Democrats originally had with certain Republicans, called a discharge petition, would have advanced four different immigration bills to the House floor. Two bills would have created a path to citizenship for Dreamers, people brought into the country illegally as minors.
The petition had 216 signatures, including those of 193 Democrats.
The "merit visa," also called the special visa, was one of the most hotly-debated parts of the bill. The conservative House Freedom Caucus originally said they would not agree to a special path to citizenship for Dreamers, while GOP reformers said that had to be included in the bill.
Trump has portrayed his immigration orders as a national security issue to stop the flow of drugs, crime and illegal immigrants into the United States.
"This is another amnesty-first-immigration-relief-maybe-later proposal, and I don’t see where they are going to get the votes for it," said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. "Most Republicans will object to the limited enforcement and green card provisions, and most Democrats will object to the border wall and asylum provisions."
Trump initially proposed offering legal status immediately and citizenship eventually to 1.8 million young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children by their parents who would have been eligible under the original DACA program.
In exchange, he wanted to secure enforcement measures that conservatives have long wanted — $25 billion for border security, drastic reductions to the number of immigrants who could be sponsored by family and an end to the diversity lottery program that awards green cards to immigrants.
Christine Condon of McClatchy's Washington Bureau contributed