Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is trying to reassemble the old gang for another push at grating amnesty to so-called “DREAMers,” illegal immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
Graham last week introduced the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy [BRIDGE] Act, which would grant legal protections to more than 740,000 illegal immigrants who currently benefit from President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) are sponsoring a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
“Maybe a few of those guys like Rubio maybe did get the message.”
In a statement announcing the bill, Graham indicated that DACA is unconstitutional and that President-Elect Donald Trump should revoke it.
“However, I do not believe we should pull the rug out and push these young men and women — who came out of the shadows and registered with the federal government — back into the darkness,” he stated
Co-sponsors include Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). All three, along with Graham, participated in the “Gang of Eight” group that sponsored comprehensive immigration reform that passed the Senate in 2013 but ultimately died in the House. Notably absent from the current bill are original Senate co-sponsors John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Representatives from McCain’s office did not immediately return calls from LifeZette. Rubio told Politico in December that he favored allowing DACA to gradually phase out by letting recipients’ two-year permits naturally expire.
“For people who already have the permits, you wouldn’t take it away from them and they wouldn’t be allowed to renew it, and that gives us time to find a legislative solution,” he said.
A Rubio spokeswoman told LifeZette that the United States needs to secure the nation’s borders, stop visitors from remaining after their visas expire, modernize the legal immigration system, and enforce current laws and fairly and humanely: “He is hopeful we’ll be able to make real progress on these goals in this new Congress.”
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said Rubio’s decision not to co-sponsor Graham’s bill and his measured comments on the issue since the election could be significant.
“Maybe a few of those guys like Rubio maybe did get the message,” he said.
At his final news conference on Wednesday, President Obama said attempts to deport DREAMers — who get their name from the acronym of the never-passed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act — would be one of the things that would prompt him to speak out after he leaves the White House.
“The notion that we would just arbitrarily, or because of politics, punish those kids, when they didn’t do anything wrong themselves, I think would be something that would merit me speaking out,” he said.
Mehlman, whose organization favors lower levels of immigration, said it is doubtful that federal authorities would prioritize the deportation of DREAMers. But he said President-Elect Donald Trump ought to let the program expire. He said the election made clear that Americans want Congress to ensure consistent enforcement of immigration laws before deciding the status of people who already have violated the law.
“There are still people in Washington who do not quite get that,” he said. Mehlman added that he does not believe Graham’s bill has a good chance to pass.
Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, declined to speculate on the bill’s chances. “We’ll see,” he said.
Immigration hard-liners said, however, that they take nothing for granted. William Gheen, founder of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said he would try to rally opposition to the legislation.
“In 2013, they beat our butts in the Senate,” he said.
But Gheen said proponents are “all underestimating the magnitude of what it going to face them this time,” in the Trump era.
“They are trying to change the conversation away from enforcement to amnesty … The American people were promised enforcement only,” he said.
Gheen said aggressive enforcement would prompt many illegal immigrants to return home voluntarily — but added that any attempts to grant special status to certain groups undermines that.
“All illegal immigrants should have something to worry about,” he said.