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Bipartisan immigration bill unveiled despite lack of support from White House

[JURIST] A bipartisan group of senators unveiled an immigration proposal [summary, PDF] on Wednesday as more Republicans offered support for immigration reform.

Senator Lindsey Graham [official website] announced [press release] that Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME), Lamar Alexander (TN), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Mike Rounds (SD) will join Republicans Graham, Jeff Flake (AZ) and Cory Gardner (CO) [official websites] in backing the Immigration Reform Act and "working to protect Dreamers."

The Act, if passed, would appropriate $2.705 billion in "border security improvements," such as a drug screening program for border patrol and "Border Security Procurement, Construction, and Improvements" that are subject to reports on environmental protection, eminent domain and alternative technology. The Act would also scale back chain migration and family immigration as well as eliminate the Visa Lottery Program and reallocate those annual visas in a merit-based preference system. Under a merit system, an immigrant would accrue points based on criteria such as education, work experience and family ties to the US. Applicants with the highest overall points in a year would be granted green cards. Additionally, the Dream Act would be made a permanent pathway to citizenship for those who qualify.

The proposed bill does not differ greatly from the one rejected by President Donald Trump last week. During an interview with Reuters, he called the proposal "very, very weak" and said, "It's the opposite of what I campaigned for." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [official website] suggested [CNBC report] that those in support of a bipartisan deal should first ascertain what the President would endorse before bringing a bill to the floor.

Many Democrats have indicated that they will not vote for spending legislation that would keep the federal government funded past Friday without an immigration deal. Republican Senators Thom Tillis (North Carolina) and James Lankford (Oklahoma) [official websites], who oppose the bill, said in a joint statement [press release] "Threatening a government shutdown or demanding a vote on a bill that is doomed to fail is counterproductive. It is also unfair to give false hope to the many DACA recipients waiting on Congress to finally enact legislation."

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