A group of liberal House Democrats say they will not support a bipartisan immigration framework, which includes a pathway to citizenship for approximately two million illegal immigrants, because of its border security measures that they call an “assault” on asylum seekers.
Reps. Adriano Espaillat, D-NY, Jesus Garcia, D-Ill., and Jose Luis Correa, D-Calif., weighed in on the framework being floated in the Senate that would give two million illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children a pathway to citizenship, combined with increased border security funding.
Created by Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., the proposal marks a last-ditch effort to get an immigration deal through Congress before Republicans take the House early next year and before Title 42 — a public health authority used to expel migrants at the border due to COVID-19 — expires in two weeks.
While the move faces opposition from immigration hawks due to its amnesty for two million illegal immigrants, it is also facing opposition from liberals because of its border security measures, which include a one-year extension of Title 42 and resources for detention and deportation.
“We appreciate the ongoing Senate negotiations and recognition to act on the behalf of the nearly 2 million who are DACA recipients or migrants eligible for the program counting on us to ensure protections for Dreamers,” the three lawmakers said. “It’s time for Congress to stop playing political games and move forward with meaningful and common sense immigration reform. We are deeply troubled by the Sinema-Tillis framework’s continued assault on asylum seekers.”
Fox News Digital reported this week that border security funding in the framework, which is still fluid, could be upwards of $40 billion and would include a 14% increase in pay for Border Patrol agents, a minimum staffing level of 20,500 agents and investments in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers and immigration judges and courts, which have been facing significant backlogs.
The bill would extend Title 42, with metrics for further extensions, while setting up centers along the border for migrants to be directed to for processing.
On the pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and other illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors, it would cap eligibility for those who have been in the U.S. since 2018, were under 18 when they arrived and were no older than 38 in 2012, and includes other thresholds. It is estimated to protect two million illegal immigrants whom activists call “Dreamers.”
The lawmakers said that there was a “moral and legal obligation to guarantee the right to seek asylum to individuals who arrive at our borders.”
“The proposed plan would reinstate the Title 42 expulsion policy while significantly increasing funding for border security. It bolsters a deal to further militarize the border and lacks necessary accountability measures that comprehensive immigration reform would have delivered,” they say.
They go on to object to the expansion of detention centers and longer jail periods.
“This inhumane proposal would also bar [Temporary Protected Status] recipients from receiving green cards,” they say. Finally, the current proposal creates a lifetime bar for individuals and their families to receive any immigration benefit, including asylum, and harsh sanctions for individuals who fail to appear in court regardless of their fear of persecution.”
“We cannot at this time, in good conscience, support the current framework,” they say.
The statement highlights how immigration deals face a tightrope between objections to border security on one side from liberals, and objections to pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants from conservatives.
The framework has already faced blistering criticism from immigration hawks, who have blasted it as amnesty cloaked with a “fig leaf” of border funding.
Tillis this week sought to push back against conservative criticism of “amnesty,” saying a deal was needed in order to stop a new surge in migration at the border when Title 42 ends.
“These are people that came to this country as minors who are now doctors, scientists, teachers, hundreds serving in the military. And I think the American people understand this is very different than this concept of amnesty,” he said on “America’s Newsroom.”
“This is going to give them a path, and it’s not automatic. They’re going to have to work and maintain those highest standards. And for that, we get a closed border, and we shut down the cartels. That seems to me like something worth working on,” Tillis said.
But time is running out for a deal. Republicans are due to take control of the House in January, and GOP leaders, including Leader Kevin McCarthy, have explicitly ruled out support of “amnesty.”