GOP senators unveiled President Trump's enforcement-heavy immigration bill Sunday, ponying up their ante as Congress begins a three-week sprint to try to find a solution to border security and illegal immigrant "Dreamers."
The plan, led by Sens. Charles E. Grassley and John Cornyn, could legalize as many as 1.8 million Dreamers in exchange for some of the biggest enforcement changes in two decades.
They proposed $25 billion to build a border wall, an end to the catch-and-release policies that free illegal immigrants into the interior of the U.S., new faster deportations for visitors who overstay their permits, and permanently authorizing the E-Verify system that some businesses use to check their workers' legal status.
The GOP proposal would also eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery and reuse those visas to lower the existing immigration backlog.
And the senators called for much stricter limits on extended family who can be sponsored for future immigration - though parents would still be allowed to come on generous visitor visas. The stricter limits would be delayed until after the current family-based immigration backlog is cleared.
This is a rare opportunity to fix a real problem and protect the country in a thoughtful and compassionate way," Mr. Grassley said. "We simply have to correct the loopholes in current law that allow dangerous criminals to enter and remain at large in our country."
He said the plan has the backing of Mr. Trump, who had called for a four-point framework to deal with legalizing illegal immigrant Dreamers.
The plan both expands on Mr. Trump's security proposals - E-Verify and a crackdown on repeat-illegal immigrants were not explicitly part of the president's framework - while also making changes to ensure that overall legal immigration numbers aren't reduced. That's something most Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have said is non-negotiable.
Still, the price tag of the wall and the other security changes are likely to be difficult to swallow for Democrats, who have indicated no willingness to crack down on current illegal immigrants as part of the ongoing negotiations.