GOP senators will introduce enforcement-heavy immigration bill

Republican senators will introduce a series of amendments this week that would drastically reform immigration policies.  Their plan closely follows the proposals from the White House, but with significant differences on enforcing laws against illegal aliens.

The Senate will begin a three-week debate on immigration this week.  The key will be fashioning a package that will get 60 senators' votes.  It will be a high-stakes game of poker with each side currently unprepared to call the other's bluff.

Democrats are on the hook to pass some kind of legislation that would legalize DACA recipients – illegal aliens brought here when they were children.  Trump has proposed an extremely generous program that would legalize 1.8 million of the DREAMers, put them on a path to citizenship, and clear a backlog of up to 5 million potential immigrants currently awaiting visas.

This may prove to be too much for many Republican senators to swallow.  But for those GOP lawmakers interested in much stronger enforcement of immigration law, the proposal being offered by Republican senators has a lot of sweeteners.

CNN:

The White House proposal offered a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million eligible immigrants, more than the 800,000 of whom registered for DACA in the five years of the program.  In exchange, the White House sought upwards of $25 billion for border security and a wall, a number of changes to laws to make it easier to deport and detain immigrants, a substantial cut to legal immigration based on family relationships and an end to the diversity visa lottery.

The Grassley bill essentially makes those bullet points a reality, including the proposals that would toughen immigration enforcement and limiting family-based visas only to spouses and children under 18 years old – a vastly reduced number of eligible immigrants from the current system.

As proposed by the White House, the cuts to the family system and diversity lottery would be used to allow in the 4 million to 5 million immigrants already waiting years – and in some cases decades – in the backlog for visas.  Cuts to yearly visas would only occur after that backlog is cleared, allowing Congress time to make reforms, the lawmakers said.

There are a couple of big differences between the White House proposal and the Senate bill.  Both have to do with enforcement against illegal aliens.

Washington Times:

They proposed $25 billion to build a border wall, an end to the catch-and-release policies that free illegal immigrants [sic; should be "aliens" –ed.] into the interior of the U.S., new faster deportations for visitors who overstay their permits, and permanently authorizing the E-Verify system that some businesses use to check their workers' legal status.

There may also be a move to adopt "Kate's Law" that requires stiff prison sentences for those illegals caught in the U.S. after being deported.  A version of the bill has passed the House, but the Senate has yet to take it up.

Democrats will look to leverage their votes for immigration reform in order to pass the more generous DACA legislation.  Bundling everything together in a "comprehensive" package may not work, however.  That-60 vote threshold will be difficult to reach, which means that Majority Leader McConnell is likely to offer the proposals as amendments.  This high-stakes game of poker may include a separate vote on DACA, which would pretty much doom the rest of the enforcement package, including funding for the wall. 

But Republicans have an ace in the hole: Donald Trump.  Ironically, at the same time, Trump is a wild card.  But as with the tax bill, if Trump gets behind immigration reform legislation and works the GOP, the chances are a lot better for passage.  Then again, Trump could blow the whole process up with a couple of insulting tweets. 

I'd say right now the chances are less than 50-50 for any kind of immigration reform bill – including DACA legislation – to make it through the Senate.  There is also a host of roadblocks already being set up in the House by immigration hard-liners.  But the GOP margin for error in the House is much greater, giving Speaker Ryan some flexibility in presenting reform legislation.

If successful, it would be another feather in the cap for Trump and the Republicans: two extremely difficult issues – tax reform and immigration reform – passed by the GOP.  If immigration reform is passed, it could be a big plus as Republicans look to hold on to their majority in the House and Senate. 

Republican senators will introduce a series of amendments this week that would drastically reform immigration policies.  Their plan closely follows the proposals from the White House, but with significant differences on enforcing laws against illegal aliens.

The Senate will begin a three-week debate on immigration this week.  The key will be fashioning a package that will get 60 senators' votes.  It will be a high-stakes game of poker with each side currently unprepared to call the other's bluff.

Democrats are on the hook to pass some kind of legislation that would legalize DACA recipients – illegal aliens brought here when they were children.  Trump has proposed an extremely generous program that would legalize 1.8 million of the DREAMers, put them on a path to citizenship, and clear a backlog of up to 5 million potential immigrants currently awaiting visas.

This may prove to be too much for many Republican senators to swallow.  But for those GOP lawmakers interested in much stronger enforcement of immigration law, the proposal being offered by Republican senators has a lot of sweeteners.

CNN:

The White House proposal offered a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million eligible immigrants, more than the 800,000 of whom registered for DACA in the five years of the program.  In exchange, the White House sought upwards of $25 billion for border security and a wall, a number of changes to laws to make it easier to deport and detain immigrants, a substantial cut to legal immigration based on family relationships and an end to the diversity visa lottery.

The Grassley bill essentially makes those bullet points a reality, including the proposals that would toughen immigration enforcement and limiting family-based visas only to spouses and children under 18 years old – a vastly reduced number of eligible immigrants from the current system.

As proposed by the White House, the cuts to the family system and diversity lottery would be used to allow in the 4 million to 5 million immigrants already waiting years – and in some cases decades – in the backlog for visas.  Cuts to yearly visas would only occur after that backlog is cleared, allowing Congress time to make reforms, the lawmakers said.

There are a couple of big differences between the White House proposal and the Senate bill.  Both have to do with enforcement against illegal aliens.

Washington Times:

They proposed $25 billion to build a border wall, an end to the catch-and-release policies that free illegal immigrants [sic; should be "aliens" –ed.] into the interior of the U.S., new faster deportations for visitors who overstay their permits, and permanently authorizing the E-Verify system that some businesses use to check their workers' legal status.

There may also be a move to adopt "Kate's Law" that requires stiff prison sentences for those illegals caught in the U.S. after being deported.  A version of the bill has passed the House, but the Senate has yet to take it up.

Democrats will look to leverage their votes for immigration reform in order to pass the more generous DACA legislation.  Bundling everything together in a "comprehensive" package may not work, however.  That-60 vote threshold will be difficult to reach, which means that Majority Leader McConnell is likely to offer the proposals as amendments.  This high-stakes game of poker may include a separate vote on DACA, which would pretty much doom the rest of the enforcement package, including funding for the wall. 

But Republicans have an ace in the hole: Donald Trump.  Ironically, at the same time, Trump is a wild card.  But as with the tax bill, if Trump gets behind immigration reform legislation and works the GOP, the chances are a lot better for passage.  Then again, Trump could blow the whole process up with a couple of insulting tweets. 

I'd say right now the chances are less than 50-50 for any kind of immigration reform bill – including DACA legislation – to make it through the Senate.  There is also a host of roadblocks already being set up in the House by immigration hard-liners.  But the GOP margin for error in the House is much greater, giving Speaker Ryan some flexibility in presenting reform legislation.

If successful, it would be another feather in the cap for Trump and the Republicans: two extremely difficult issues – tax reform and immigration reform – passed by the GOP.  If immigration reform is passed, it could be a big plus as Republicans look to hold on to their majority in the House and Senate.