Here are details of latest bipartisan DACA deal to protect DREAMers

Daniel Gonzalez Dan Nowicki
The Republic |

PHOENIX — Bipartisan Senate negotiators have come to terms on a deal to protect "DREAMers," as young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children are known. But the White House is not on board with the plan yet.

Demonstrators rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and temporary protected status programs at Sen. Dean Heller's, R-Nev., office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 16, 2018.

The senators, including Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, plan to introduce legislation Wednesday that would provide $18 billion in border-security enhancements over the next decade — including an immediate $1.6 billion down payment on President Trump's border wall.

In exchange, DREAMers would be granted permanent legal status.

The compromise would put them on a 12-year path to citizenship with up to two years credit for time spent with temporary deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the Trump administration is attempting to phase out on March 5.

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Flake's bipartisan working group has been trying to hammer out a compromise for weeks.

On Tuesday, several hundred dreamers converged on Capitol Hill to demand that senators pass a bill by Friday, the deadline for Congress to adopt a spending resolution to avoid a partial government shutdown.

White House: Border-security funding lacking

The chances of an immigration bill passing this week appeared to slip away, however, after Trump rejected an earlier version last week and ignited an international firestorm by reportedly using vulgar language to question why, under the proposal, the U.S. would continue to accept immigrants from Haiti and African countries.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that the earlier version of the Senate immigration proposal failed to include enough money for border security.

"Specifically, one of the areas that really, really fell short was the funding for border security," Sanders said. "They only put in about one-tenth of what the Department of Homeland Security said they needed — not what they said they wanted, but what they said they needed. And this was simply a complete failure in terms of a good deal, based on what the president had laid out and based on what he wanted to see in a piece of legislation."

The White House was continuing to work on an immigration bill with Republicans and Democrats in both the GOP-controlled House and Senate, she said. But she blamed Democrats for refusing to compromise on areas such as border security and so-called "chain migration."

Trump on Sunday tweeted: "DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military."

Democrats are under pressure from immigrant advocates and progressives to withhold votes on the must-pass spending measure unless Republicans agree to Dream Act legislation that would give about 2 million dreamers a pathway to citizenship, including the 800,000 who received deportation protections under the Obama-era DACA program, as well as many of those who were eligible for it but didn't apply.

On Saturday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that current DACA recipients can again apply for two-year renewals after a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the Trump administration from phasing out the program.

What the bipartisan deal would do

According to highlights of the draft legislation obtained by The Arizona Republic, the compromise deal calls for a shift away from the nation's longstanding family-based immigration system by eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery program, which uses a random lottery system to pick immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

Half of the roughly 55,000 diversity-lottery visas now allocated annually would be reallocated based on new merit-based preferences to immigrants from "priority countries" that are underrepresented, according to highlights.

The remaining half would be reallocated over time to immigrants who had been allowed to remain in the U.S. under temporary protected status. They will maintain legal status and work authorization. The Trump administration recently ended temporary protected status for tens of thousands of immigrants with long ties to the U.S. from El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan and Nicaragua.

Once all of the temporary protected status backlogs are cleared, visas would be allocated to immigrants from priority counties in accordance to the new merit-based system, according to the highlights.

The legislation would also limit family-based immigration by preventing DREAMers from legalizing their parents after being granted permanent residency, a significant break from the current system. However, parents of DREAMers would be eligible to apply for three-year renewable work permits.

Previously:Trump blasts Dems as DREAMer debate heats up

More:What is 'chain migration' and why does President Trump want to end it?

The legislation would further limit so-called family chain-migration by allowing immigrants who receive permanent legal residency to only sponsor nuclear family members, including spouses and unmarried children younger than 21, to come to the U.S. This would also represent a significant shift from the current system, which allows legal permanent residents to also sponsor additional family members, including parents and siblings.

Based on an outline of the the forthcoming bipartisan bill, the deal "is a compromise with good and bad," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, which advocates for the DREAM Act.

Sharry said he was pleased that the deal would provide relief to dreamers, their parents and those with temporary protected status but unhappy that it includes funding for Trump's "stupid wall," prevents dreamers from petitioning to sponsor their parents for green cards, and curbs family-based immigration and the diversity visa program.

"But overall, it's a deal we can probably support," he said.

Follow Daniel González and Dan Nowicki on Twitter: @azdangonzalez and @dannowicki