Sens. McCain and Coons to introduce immigration plan — but there’s no funding for border wall

Sens. McCain and Coons to introduce immigration plan — but there’s no funding for border wall
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) are set to introduce a new immigration bill to help the DACA recipients, but there doesn't appear to be any immediate funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall. (Getty Images)

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) are set to introduce a new immigration plan Monday to give permanent legal status to recipients of former President Barack Obama’s program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA — and, according to the Wall Street Journal, offer “a path to citizenship for Dreamers.”

The DACA program is set to begin phasing out on March 5, a deadline set by President Donald Trump.

But there’s a catch — there reportedly isn’t any immediate funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall in the McCain-Coons plan.

What are the details of the plan?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the McCain-Coons plan will be introduced in the Senate in an attempt to help reach a budget deal and ultimately avert another government shutdown. Congress faces a Thursday deadline to pass a government funding bill, and creating a so-called “DACA-fix” has been a part of ongoing negotiations.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the bipartisan bill would provide a “legal status” and a “path to citizenship” for young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. since Dec. 31, 2013.

The Washington Post reported that McCain-Coons’ proposed bill would “grant permanent legal status to undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers” — and bolster U.S-Mexico border security.

Trump announced in September that he would end the Obama-era program protecting those brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Some of the criteria for DACA eligibility included having been brought to the U.S. illegally as a child under 16 years of age, being under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and having continuously lived in the U.S. since at least 2007.

In January, the Trump administration released details on an immigration plan that would include a “path to citizenship” for as many as 1.8 million illegal immigrant Dreamers.

The McCain-Coons bill would provide legal status for more than the 1.8 million Trump has been willing to agree to, according to the Post.

Instead of outlining definitive funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall — a hot-button issue that some Republicans are pushing hard for — the proposed legislation, instead, proposes a study to determine specifically what border security measures are actually needed.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump in January asked Congress to direct $25 billion toward the border wall, along with other measures for security. According to the Post, some congressional Republicans are seeking at least $30 billion.

The McCain-Coons bill would also allow for a $110 million grant for five years in order to improve the coordination between state and local law enforcements and U.S. border patrol agents.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Coons said that the senators’ bipartisan bill does not address family-based legal immigration, which is commonly known as chain migration, or the diversity visa lottery.

Trump has insisted on restricting chain migration and ending the visa lottery.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump also requested that Congress tighten overall enforcement on immigration, reduce family-based immigration, and ramp up deportations, and noted that Trump was prepared to exit negotiations if Democrats refused to agree to his terms.

What else?

The McCain-Coons bill is nearly identical to bipartisan legislation introduced in January by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif).

The Hurd-Aguilar bill, also known as The USA Act, has the support of 27 Democrats and 27 Republicans in the House, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Post reported that, instead of funding the border wall, the bill would instead permit the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to Congress  “a new southern border security strategy within a year of the bill’s passage,” with a stipulation that the plan would be required to include “a list of known physical barriers, levees, technologies, tools, and other devices that can be used to achieve and maintain situational awareness and operational control along the southern border.”

According to the Journal, McCain said in a statement Sunday, “It’s time we end the gridlock so we can quickly move on to completing a long-term budget agreement that provides our men and women in uniform the support they deserve.”

He added, “While reaching a deal cannot come soon enough for America’s service members, the current political reality demands bipartisan cooperation to address the impending expiration of the DACA program and secure the southern border.”

Is there more?

Despite the McCain-Coons bill, Senate Democrats in January said that they would be willing to drop demands that a so-called “DACA-fix” be part of final spending negotiations in order to avoid a shutdown.

According to a Politico report, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “We’re viewing [immigration and spending] on separate terms because they are on separate paths,” and explained that Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s “concession” to broach a standalone immigration reform bill would be a “significant step forward.”

The Hill last week reported that McConnell said a standalone immigration plan could be addressed so long as the government is still open come Thursday.

“I don’t think we’ll see a threat [of a] government shutdown again over this subject,” McConnell told reporters, according to the outlet. “One of my favorite old Kentucky country sayings is ‘There’s no education in the second kick of a mule,’ and so I think there will be a new level of seriousness here trying to resolve these issues.”

McConnell added that threats of shutting down the government in order to get a foot up on immigration “has clearly been eliminated.”

“If the immigration issue was not resolved in the global discussions … then I’m perfectly happy provided the government is still open on Feb. 8 to go to the subject and to treat it in a fair way,” McConnell said. “We’ll see who can get to 60 votes.”

Has the White House responded?

The White House on Monday rejected the bipartisan plan, saying it was a non-starter.

CNN on Monday reported that an administration official called the bill co-sponsored by McCain and Coons “worse” than the Graham-Durbin immigration bill, which was introduced by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Durbin (D-Ill.).

The White House in January said that the Graham-Durbin proposal would not have provided enough funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, and did not allow for many changes with regard to family migration.

Trump on Monday also tweeted, “Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time. March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!”

Trump also said in December that there would be no help for DACA recipients without funding for the border wall.

“The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!” he tweeted.

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