Feb 12, 2018, 2:21 PM ET

Free-for-all Senate immigration debate kicks off


In a rare move, the Senate will launch an unusual process late Monday afternoon to debate a legislative fix for the hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers who could face deportation come March 5.

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The process calls for a free-for-all debate on the Senate floor with an unlimited number of amendments that can be offered, all in the hopes Republicans and Democrats can reach a bipartisan solution in the contentious immigration debate.

“I expect that virtually every issue under the sun will come up during this floor debate and that's fine,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters last week. “That's the way the Senate always used to operate, that is a good way to legislate.”

The fate of Dreamers has riled Republicans and Democrats across the political spectrum. In January, the federal government briefly shut down, with both sides refusing to budge on the Dreamer issue despite weeks of negotiating.

At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised Democrats a debate and a vote on Dreamers should the government remain open and funded.

McConnell has kept his word and last week told reporters the debate this week would be “fair to everyone in the Senate.”

“Whoever gets to 60 votes wins,” he said. “And it will be an opportunity for 1,000 flowers to bloom.”

PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is seen in the House chamber during President Donald Trumps State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Jan. 30, 2018. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is seen in the House chamber during President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Jan. 30, 2018.

The move is seen as a rare gamble by the usually cautious McConnell, because it’s not clear what the end result will be, but his decision to open the Senate floor up to debate has already won the approval of some Democrats.

“I think that Mitch McConnell has been a champ to say we're gonna do the process, we're gonna let amendments be offered, and whatever gets 60 votes will be what passes,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said last week.

Some senators involved in a bipartisan working group, which includes more than two dozen senators, have said they are optimistic they can come to some sort of a moderate solution to help Dreamers avoid deportation, but they acknowledge they haven’t reached a consensus on what the legislative framework should look like.

“If we're gonna do this in this short period of time, this can't be viewed as comprehensive immigration reform,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said last week following a working group meeting.

“It's got to be a more narrow field, and then we can all talk about comprehensive immigration,” he said.

The bipartisan working group has signaled that, so far, a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and enhanced border security are on the table.

But another group of conservative Republican senators want to take it a step further, by mirroring the framework the Trump administration has called for, including ending “chain family migration” and the diversity visa lottery program. Their proposal also includes a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers and $25 billion for border security.

“President Trump has been very clear on what he will sign into law, and this is it,” Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said in a statement. “This is a great deal and the only solution that fully addresses the four pillars in the President’s framework.”

On Monday, McConnell announced his support of the conservative proposal on the Senate floor, and said he thinks it has the best chance of getting signed into law by the president.

"I support the president's proposal and my colleagues' legislation to implement it. The Secure and Succeed Act is fair and addresses both sides' most pressing concerns, conforming to the conditions the president has put forward," McConnell said.

"It’s our best chance of producing a solution that can actually resolve these matters - which requires that a bill pass the Senate and pass the House and earn the president’s signature," he went on.

Moments later, the Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned against conservative "overreach" in trying to reform the entire legal immigration system. He urged his colleagues to focus on a "narrow" bill instead.

During an infrastructure event at the White House Monday morning, Trump touted his position on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program he moved to end, which puts the fate of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children into peril.

"We have our military taken care of, we start very serious DACA talks today," Trump said. "We are - I can tell you, speaking for the Republican Party, we would love to do DACA. We would love to get it done. We want border security."

The Senate is expected to act before, and independently of, the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan has promised lawmakers he’d tackle a solution for Dreamers upon successful package of the spending deal, which passed in both chambers and was signed into law late last week.

PHOTO: DACA recipients and supporters protest for a clean Dream Act outside Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. on Jan. 22, 2018.Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
DACA recipients and supporters protest for a clean Dream Act outside Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. on Jan. 22, 2018.

Ryan and other GOP leaders are aligned with conservatives in the Senate, and insist that a House bill address the four pillars of reform that President Trump wants.

The so-called "number twos" in the House and Senate – Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Reps. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Steny Hoyer, D-Md. – have worked for weeks with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and White House chief of staff John Kelly on a separate bipartisan solution, though those negotiations stalled during the shutdown showdown last month.

“The issues are very difficult, they're very inter-connected, they're emotional. They're expensive, in some cases. But we do seem to be making progress,” Collins said.

But there may be a reprieve for DACA recipients if Congress can't come up with a solution by the March 5 deadline.

In January, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration's plans to rescind DACA protections.

The judge that issued the nationwide injunction, wrote "that the rescission [of DACA] was arbitrary and capricious.”

The White House called the ruling “outrageous” and said in a press statement that “an issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process.”

The Justice Department appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which it was required to do in order to ask for a direct review at the Supreme Court.

ABC News' John Parkinson, Geneva Sands, and Audrey Taylor contributed to this report.

News - Free-for-all Senate immigration debate kicks off

RRelated Posts


  • scott McIntosh

    No wall needed just place enhanced DMV photos on all Social Security Cards add them to W4 forms for All American jobs use them for all benefit programs , voting and all school Registrations !
    As they come for our jobs jail employers that know and hire them and stop the 1099 loophole that they use to avoid paying taxes !!!

  • Time Immemorial

    The only way to discourage illegal immigration, or any crime for that matter, is to insist on strict accountability.
    Also, using e-verify to make will help too.

  • Me again

    Use El Chapo's money to build the wall.

  • I Love a Parade!!

    It must be difficult for the Democrat and Republican party to find areas of disagreement. Immigration makes sense for such an area, because there are no lobbies writing checks about it, and being on one side or the other won't affect their future fund raising. It's like Russia, not like the Five Wars....everybody likes the wars...

    Plus, it detracts from the money. Back in my day, there were folks who disagreed with the Party on major issues. It was all very chaotic, and the trains often did not run on time.

    It's better now.

  • E Just

    "whoever gets 60 votes wins" -- what this means is the moneyed interests who can buy 60 votes win, and the American people lose.
    There will be no bill reducing immigration (what the American people want). There will be a bill preserving the status quo and the flow of cheap labor (what corporations want). Bet on it.

  • I Love a Parade!!

    How fun that Congress is going to debate something. In a system where all policy on everything is set by the highest bidder, there's not much for Congress to debate these days....So this rollback is like an homage to a Jimmy Stewart movie or something.

    I hope everybody will be okay.

  • CaptnBlynd

    Why do I want illegal aliens punished? To discourage illegal immigration, of course. It has little to do with them and everything about upholding the law in order to deter people from violating it. This has nothing to with race, you can start with the Canadians, Russians and general Europeans.
    Crime is punished to deter people from violating the law. Not for revenge or fun. There will be a compromise. Conservatives will not like it, liberals will lose their minds. I was a registered Libertarian for 30 years. I know these people. That is why I left the party.

    The crime of their parents does not place moral obligation on the victims. There is no moral obligation to help "Dreamers".
    The "New liberals" will never accept this. All must do and say everything that they are told to in the name of freedom.
    The solution we seek is to end the problem. The solution we seek is not open borders.

  • Curmudgathrope

    I can see doing all 4 of the pillars wanted, but do them separately, and each stand-alone ( no pork, no additives, just one item each, and do in some sensible order. Best done with a Veto Override Majority as a signal to the WH.
    In an order of progression, something like:
    1. Merit Based - some will always be dreamers with dreams that will not come true. Others it happens.
    2. Dreamers - Add dreamers and parents only, all up, or all down. See 1.
    3. End Chain - This does sound like a hocus-pocus catch, since there is no provisioning for an unlimited number of requests as the scare tactics of it imply. See 1.
    4.Border Security - Items 1, 2, 3 become effective once this provision passed, not before, and recommends OR destroys the concept of a "Wall". Something like 70% of Americans see no need for a wall , and it is NOT the major problem of other issues like Overstaying Visa', or even flying in somewhere...deal with the real problem, not a knee-jerk reactionary solution
    5. E-Verify - Employers and housing must use the system and face the same consequences under the law - jail/prison/forfeiture of related assets, heavy fines - if they don't

  • voic3ofr3ason

    Glad to see this finally coming to the top of the priorities. I hope that common ground can be found... Protect Dreamers / Protect Borders.

  • Roman Gabriel

    I do not understand why allowing 1.8 million people, a majority of which are non-white, a path to citizenship is a white supremacist idea. Also, I do not understand why having an immigration system that mirrors that of Canada and/or Australia is racist. As an Independent, the Democrats have lost their way on immigration and are pandering to far left activism. This philosophical shift with the Democratic party started in 2012.

  • busseja

    I have no doubt Trump will cave. Just like on the Budget. The amnesty bill will be entitled The "THEY STAY WE PAY" illegal amnesty act.

  • MWP

    Pass DACA with path to citizenship, increase border security with significant wall funding, end to chain migration and the lottery system, and then move to a merit based immigration system just like other first world countries...

  • HeavyTeddy

    Regardless of the outcome, the Dreamers and their supporters have a poor attitude. They are hardly in a position to "demand" anything, Squatting for 15 or more years does not make you a citizen, especially if you had kids after you arrived.
    There's a process that our many legal immigrants had to satisfy to get their precious American citizenship. If we make it a freebie, it has no value.
    Those requirements should be tougher than ever, and require that applicants relinquish their loyalty to any other country, learn the language, learn the basic law, do the paperwork as required - make an effort. Then, you get to be a citizen.

  • sjc_1

    This is a slight of hand trick, Ryan will just kill it in the house and McConnell knows this. It is pure GOP evil as always.

  • Blue Wave

    Well, here's to hoping for a productive and civilized debate. Now, where did I put my unicorn?

  • Tegbessou Géléhéso

    Headline should read: Free-for-all Senate immigration debate kicks off for the 300th time in the last 50 years.

  • discusblocksgod

    Angus King of Maine says the Senate has no time to do comprehensive immigration reform. People like him should leave the Senate and find a less demanding job.

    The Senate and House have been debating immigration and putting together various ideas forever and they are still not having time to come up with a comprehensive bill to fix the problem once and for all?

    Add the Border wall, no diversity lottery, no chain migration, merit based immigration etc. to the GANG OF 8 bill and that will pass with - it had 68 bipartisan Senate votes the last time. McCain referred to bringing that bill back but now we don't hear him squeak probably because he has a problem with letting Trump have another win, after tax reform.

  • John Springer

    It will resemble Britiain's parliament.

  • djl

    "The judge that issued the nationwide injunction, wrote 'that the rescission [of DACA] was arbitrary and capricious '.”
    The implementation of DACA was arbitrary, capricious and unconstitutional.

  • Kl

    Dems now have the opportunity they have been looking for, the ability to be able to debate immigration in Congress and send the President a bill to sign. Do not drop the ball on this one Dems, your party will greatly depend on the outcome of this in the coming weeks. The President has already voiced his plan/opinion on this, at it seems to be one that is embraced by a great many, unless you believe that 1.8M is not enough, enhanced border security and getting rid of chain migration and the VISA lottery.......the President has played you for fools on this one and has given you an opportunity, now lets see which way you will go.

  • Niltsi

    Americans have dreams too.

  • Dan Farrar

    Whatever DACA deal gets passed in the Senate if any, will have to include Trump's four pillars or it will be dead on arrival in the House.

  • TheTyrannyOfTheMajority

    From the article..,

    “The judge that issued the nationwide injunction, wrote "that the rescission [of DACA] was arbitrary and capricious.”“

    Hate to tell you, Judge, but the implementation of the Obama Program was equally “arbitrary and capricious” and ignored the Constitutional Separation of Powers.

    Obama overreached when he unilaterally decided to implement his program, even Obama admitted he didn’t have the authority.

    Trump forced Congress to do their jobs (which they are now doing) and fix the problem legislatively.