Prospects of new bipartisan DACA agreement remain uncertain

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WASHINGTON — As the Senate struggles to find an immigration bill it can pass, two new bipartisan proposals are being rolled out, both containing some of President Donald Trump’s demands but parting on others.

The fate of those plans was clouded even before their release as the president issued a plea to senators Wednesday to support his proposal, which was introduced as a bill by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

“I am asking all senators, in both parties, to support the Grassley bill and to oppose any legislation that fails to fulfill these four pillars — that includes opposing any short-term ‘Band-Aid’ approach,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump’s proposal addresses four areas: a path to citizenship for 1.8 million “Dreamers,” massive increases to border security, drastic limits to family-based migration, and an end to the diversity visa lottery.

But senators from both sides of the aisle have been meeting consistently since the impasse over those immigration issues led to a short-term government shutdown last month. And those discussions, searching for compromise, have led to some approaches different from the president’s.

One proposal, by Colorado’s two senators — Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet — only addresses border security and the DACA program.

“This amendment is a reasonable solution to break through Washington gridlock and provide a compromise for Dreamers who are counting on us in Colorado and around the country,” Bennet said of his proposal.

The other is likely to be introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and emerged from the so-called Common Sense Caucus, a group of two dozen senators who have been meeting for weeks searching for consensus.

It is similar to the Bennet and Gardner proposal, according to a Senate in that they both provide a path to citizenship over 12 years for 1.8 million Dreamers and provides $25 billion for border security, similar to what Trump requested.

But it’s in the final two “pillars” where all three plans diverge. Gardner and Bennet don’t address the diversity lottery or family-based immigration. The Common Sense Caucus plan, a Senate source said, addresses family-based migration when it comes to the parents of Dreamers, who would not be able to petition for legal status for their parents under the plan.

“It is our hope that, since our bill is bipartisan, and we’ve incorporated priorities from both sides of the aisle, that we will be able to get a good vote. But you just never know,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who launched the Common Sense Caucus that met multiple times a week and fueled by cookies.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put his weight behind the Grassley measure at the beginning of the week, however, making the success of any bipartisan proposal less certain. Grassley’s bill is partisan and is unlikely to gain the support of any Democrats except for Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who indicated earlier in the week that he’s likely to support it.

Further tipping the scales against any bipartisan measure, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters Wednesday that the last vote Republicans are expected to bring up is the Grassley proposal, ensuring that they will likely hold their votes for any proposal voted on before it.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said that he thought the bipartisan Gardner-Bennet bill could get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate, but he wasn’t sure of it. “It kind of depends on the order in which they come up, too,” he said.

It’s unclear when the Senate will start voting on any of these proposals.

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