‘Problem Solvers’ push DACA fix
Members of a bipartisan group of U.S. House members, including a Chester County representative, have released a framework of their principles for addressing immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for those in the DACA program, plans to support various aspects of border security, and modifications to visa programs.
The ideas proposed come as the immigration debate continues to roil Congress and the Trump Administration. The president was expected to address the issue in his State of the Union speech Tuesday.
The plan was released Monday by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 48 House members, including equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6, of West Goshen, is among them.
“The Problem Solvers Caucus proposal, in finding a bipartisan solution for individuals here under DACA, addressing border security, reallocating visas from the Diversity Visa Lottery, and dealing with family reunification and migration is the proper framework from which to establish the contours for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that can pass Congress and be signed into law,” Costello said in a statement.
“These issues are not easy and, understandably, many emotions are involved, but Congress must show responsible and proactive leadership, and I am intent on being part of the solution to this issue,” he said.
It remains to be seen whether the administration will follow President Trump’s wish to have a “bill of love” for those covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or hew to the more hard-edged immigration opponents in the White House, Costello said later in a phone interview from Washington. The Problem Solvers’ legislation was meant to split the difference.
“This attempt was to have a framework that address the core issues of the immigration debate. In the end, the border security plan will please a lot of conservatives, the family reunification guidelines are probably more conservative than liberal, but the path to citizenship is more than even the Obama Administration proposed.”
Costello said that just because the legislation was labeled “bipartisan” does not mean it is watered down to please all sides.
“I think it will be found objectionable to the rigid ideologues on both sides,” he said. “But there is no way to soft-pedal the issue, or make it mushy. There is nothing that is going to find complete agreement on both sides.”
He said that he hopes to focus his attention mostly on family reunification efforts, what hard-line conservative brand as “chain migration.” There must, he suggested, be limits to how many family members would be extended visas from those who obtain legal citizenship in the United States, while still finding a way to bring families together. “That is something that has to be fleshed out. If you don’t stop it somewhere,” the system becomes unwieldy, he said.
He noted that in his party’s conference, there remains a split, and speculated that there is one in the Democratic conference as well.
“I hope that the administration continues to lean in on this, and that the Senate passes something so that we in the House can have something fundamental to address on legal and illegal immigration. I have a feeling that if we have a floor vote, over the long haul we will do something with DACA. And that is what people sent us to do: address the big problems.”
His office states that Costello has been outspoken about the need to provide a permanent legislative solution to DACA, and he is a cosponsor of two bills, the Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act and the Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act, that would provide clear standards as to how individuals in the DACA program may remain domiciled in the United States.
USA Act is bipartisan legislation that would allow individuals here under DACA to remain permanently, as well as reduce immigrations system backlog, achieve operational control of the border, and foster United States engagement in Central America. The RAC Act is legislation that provides several pathways to legalization, including higher education, the Armed Forces, or work authorization. There is a five-year conditional status that is followed by an application for a five-year permanent status. The bill also includes vetting by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to Costello’s office.
The Problem Solvers’ framework would include:
• Granting visas to the parents of “dreamers” not in the country illegally;
• Giving sponsorship to those legal permanent residents for their spouses and children under the age of 21;
• Creating a 12-year path to citizenship for “Dreamers”;
• Allocating $1.59 billion for border security infrastructure planning and construction;
• Funding $1.12 billion for increased border security surveillance and technology;
• Splitting the visa lottery between “merit-based” individuals applying from “priority countries” and those already granted temporary status.