During the so-called lame-duck interim between Election Day and the inauguration of the new Congress, Tillis and Sinema are proposing a pathway to citizenship for those covered under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Up to two million individuals could be provided “amnesty” under the bill, Fox News reported.
In October, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by federal Judge Andrew Hanen that deemed the DACA program illegal and stymied new applications to the program. Hanen’s decision effectively exempted those already shielded from deportation by DACA. The federal government estimated in September that approximately 800,000 people who arrived illegally as children have been protected by the executive order.
The legislation by Tillis and Sinema would also reportedly include between $25 billion and $40 billion for border security funding, part of which would be used to fund a pay increase for border guards.
The draft would also extend the use of Title 42 enforcement for another year while the U.S. government can set up hubs where enforcement resources would be concentrated.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, D.C. issued an opinion last month ordering an end to expulsions under Title 42 by December 21.
On Friday, The Texan interviewed Mark Morgan, former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) during the Trump administration. Morgan has an extensive background in law enforcement and counterterrorism, including decades of experience at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Characterizing amnesty as a “vicious cycle,” Morgan contended that providing a pathway to legalization for DACA recipients would give the cartels an opening to promote human trafficking. He stated that cartels will market this as a foreshadowing of future opportunities to be granted legal status.
“We’re experiencing the worst border crisis in our lifetime. Any action taken by Congress that’s going to provide yet another incentive for more people to come here illegally and for the cartels to exploit that is a disaster — and that’s exactly what any form of amnesty will do,” Morgan told The Texan.
He added, “Nothing in the Tillis-Sinema proposal — nothing — is going to stop the flow of illegal immigration. Nothing.”
Highlighting the scale of what proponents are ultimately hoping to achieve, Morgan also pointed to comments by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer that there should be a pathway to citizenship for everyone in the country illegally.
“We have a population that is not reproducing on its own with the same level that it used to,” Schumer said in November.
“The only way we’re going to have a great future in America is if we welcome and embrace immigrants, the Dreamers and all of them, because our ultimate goal is to help the Dreamers, but get a path to citizenship for all 11 million or however many undocumented there are here. And we will be pursuing that in the next Senate.”
Those covered by DACA are often called “Dreamers.” Morgan condemned Schumer’s philosophy and others who support granting legal status to those who are not in the U.S. lawfully.
“The Democrats and the open border advocates have pushed a false narrative on the American people, and that false narrative is that there’s no downside to illegal immigration, and that’s just a lie,” he said.
While Morgan stated that resources for border patrol are important, he emphasized that they must be accompanied by policies that deter illegal immigration.
“Anything that is done from a legislative perspective or a policy perspective that provides incentives will just increase illegal immigration, and as illegal immigration goes up, our ability to secure our border goes down,” Morgan said.
Morgan contended that adding more border patrol resources without strengthening policies against illegal immigration will be fruitless.
“You could throw 100,000 more border patrol agents down there, but as long as your policies are driving illegal immigration, those resources will just be utilized to get more efficient and effective of processing and releasing people, not on the national security mission,” Morgan said.
On the other hand, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has pointed the finger at the GOP, saying Republicans are the ones promoting the idea that the border is open.
The Biden administration has also pointed to turmoil abroad, such as poor economic conditions and political persecution, as the main causes of the spike in illegal immigration.
There were 2.38 million enforcement encounters with illegal immigrants in Fiscal Year 2022, according to CBP. 2.21 million of those encounters were arrests between ports of entry; 1.5 million occurred in border patrol sectors based in Texas.
If this bill does not make it to Biden’s desk, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants will be less likely to pass next year.
Republicans will have a slim majority in the House when the 118th Congress is seated in January. However, the Senate will be in Democratic hands with the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris and the votes of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Angus King (I-ME), who caucus with the Democrats.
Tillis and Sinema are considered to be closer to the center of the political spectrum. Sinema separated from many of her Democratic colleagues and opposed a provision in a COVID-19 pandemic-related bill to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Tillis was among the Republicans who joined Democrats to support a bill than enshrined recognition of same-sex marriage in federal law.
Sinema announced on Friday that she left the Democratic Party and registered as an independent. It is unclear whether Sinema will continue caucusing with Democrats.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."