ERLC priorities for the Senate Dreamer debate

The United States Senate begins debate this week on immigration reform for the special category of undocumented immigrants brought to this country by their parents, known as Dreamers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) agreed to a rare, open floor debate allowing both Republicans and Democrats equal opportunity to offer complete bills and amendments in attempt to build a 60 vote consensus. Because neither party has 60 members of the Senate, any bill that passes must be a bipartisan compromise.

Procedurally, Leader McConnell will use a bill already passed by the House to serve as the vehicle for Senate negotiations. This bill, if successfully amended by the Senate, will go back to the House. The House then has the option for either an up-or-down vote or to force a conference committee to work out differences between the chambers.

The White House released a four-part framework for immigration reform several weeks ago, and we expect the President and White House staff to be active participants in this week’s negotiations.

Bills up for consideration

On Monday evening the Senate voted to begin debate on immigration. In a single week, the Senate will debate one of the most difficult issues of this political moment. There are a number of proposals that have already been introduced over the last several months.

We expect the Senate debate to be largely informed by the following proposals:  

Other bills along this spectrum may be introduced as well. Several working groups in the Senate searched for a compromise for months. We expect a number of bills to be floated this week in an effort to find a compromise that can earn 60 votes in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the House is actively considering proposals as well. Some conservatives in the House are pushing Republican House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R–Va.), Securing America’s Future Act. This bill is a wide-ranging immigration reform proposal seeking to cut legal immigration by overhauling visa categories, interior enforcement, and border security. It does not provide a permanent solution for Dreamers, only a three year work authorization, and has no Democratic support.

ERLC’s policy priorities

The ERLC’s immigration priorities for this debate remain providing a permanent solution for eligible Dreamers, ensuring America’s border is secure, and maintaining the integrity of families. Within a complex legislative debate, there will be issues within our agenda and various others on which we are neutral. Central to our vision for reform is a rejection of the idea that our commitment to both Christian compassion and respect for the rule of law are irreconcilable. As a country, we advocate for a fair and just solution for these undocumented young men and women, not just because it is the “right thing to do,” but because it accords with biblical principles.

There are a number of issues we anticipate will surface during the Senate debate. Here are the key issues we will track:

The week ahead

ERLC’s D.C. staff continues to engage Senate and Administration leaders to work for a bipartisan solution for Dreamers and reforms to a broken immigration system. The unusual Senate procedure will make for a fast-paced week. Follow our ERLC staff on Twitter for updates throughout the week as the debate unfolds.