Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., on Thursday will propose immigration legislation that seeks to strike a balance between progressive and conservatives' demands on border security and the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The Border Security and Deferred Action Recipient Relief Act would provide $1.6 billion for border security measures, give DACA recipients and other youths a path to permanent residency, and enhance interior enforcement protocols that target gang members, his office confirmed to the Washington Examiner. The bill is comparable to the Dream Act and Succeed Act.
"I'll work with anyone and support any number of proposals to accomplish these goals, but I believe the straightforward approach of the Border Security and Deferred Action Recipient Relief Act is the best chance we've got to put a bill on the president's desk," Flake said in a statement.
The bill's introduction Thursday comes on the final day for DACA recipients whose legal protections and work permits expire between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, to apply for two-year renewals.
Flake's bill would give DACA recipients and those who have been in the U.S. illegally since 2012 conditional resident status for 10 years, at which point they would be eligible to apply for a green card. Permanent residency recipients may apply for citizenship after five years. The bill's timeline is in line with the Succeed Act's 15-year path to citizenship, though the Dream Act includes a shorter plan.
Flake's approach to reforming these immigration policies is more centrist than some conservative stances and could upset his base of voters in next year's election. However, he's not the first conservative to propose continued protections for the 800,000 affected illegal immigrants.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., proposed the Dream Act in July to create a legislative solution to the Obama-era executive order. Illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least four continuous years would be protected from deportation and given a path to legal status.
Applicants would be able to apply for conditional permanent residency then must obtain lawful permanent residence for five years before being allowed to apply for naturalization.
Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and James Lankford of Oklahoma have proposed the Succeed Act, which would also give DACA recipients and others a path to green cards, though through a slightly more challenging method. It includes language to crack down further on illegal immigration.
Under the Tillis and Lankford bill, recipients would have arrived in the U.S. before June 15, 2012, and have been under 16 years old at the time. They must also follow one or a combination of three merit-based paths in order to show they are productive members of their communities. The stipulations include gainful employment for 48 out of 60 months, earning a postsecondary or vocational degree, and serving honorably in the military for at least three years.
Tillis and Lankford would give conditional permanent residence status to recipients for five-year terms but must fulfill one of those commitments prior to being approved for a second term. Following that 10-year period, recipients would be able to apply for lawful permanent status.
The Tillis-Lankford legislation would also prevent chain migration by denying recipients from sponsoring family members for lawful permanent resident status.