DACA/DREAM Frontera Fund News

Flake Debuts DACA Bill Tied to Border Security

Jeff Flake

On October 5 – the deadline for DREAMers to renew DACA or face deportation when the program expires in March – Arizona Senator Jeff Flake parachuted in with a possible solution. 

He introduced a DACA replacement bill that may have a better chance of passing than anything proposed so far.

That’s because the compromise bill offers conditional resident status to DACA recipients and undocumented youths living in the U.S. since 2012 – and ties that relief to the $1.6 billion for border security already passed by the House. 

The border security provision will upset many DREAMers and Democrats who are calling for a “clean” DREAM Act free of border security measures. But Flake is taking the Mary Poppins approach with his fellow Republicans: A spoonful of border security sugar helps the DACA medicine go down. The fact that border militarization is “sugar” to Republicans shows how out-of-whack our country has become.

“If we can protect these DACA recipients and provide solutions to better secure our borders at the same time, that’s a win-win,” announced Flake. “This bill is the best way to thread the needle to deliver what the president has asked for, what the Congress wants and what my constituents in Arizona deserve.”

Flake’s proposal applies to young immigrants who were younger than 16 when their parents brought them to the U.S. That’s the same as in the Republican-introduced SUCCEED Act and RAC Act but more restrictive than the DREAM Act of 2017 and the American Hope Act, which allow DREAMers who were younger than 18 when they entered the U.S. to apply. 

The bill would give conditional resident status for 10 years to current DACA beneficiaries and undocumented youth who have been continuously living in the U.S. since 2012. It does not apply to newer arrivals. 

Like all the other current bills except the American Hope Act, it requires beneficiaries to pursue vocational or higher education, enlist in the military, OR be employed. It’s worth noting that 95 percent of current DACA beneficiaries work, go to school, or do both.

After 10 years with conditional resident status, the DREAMers could apply for a green card. That 10-plus-year path to citizenship puts this bill somewhat in the middle of the current bills on the table.

There are some people in the Congress who don’t want to provide any relief, who think that it would be an amnesty to let any child that was brought here by their parents… stay. But I think that’s a very small view in terms of numbers in Congress.

Flake also proposes to deport gang and cartel members. His bill includes a provision that mirrors the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act, which, as we have reported, puts peaceful immigrants and asylum seekers in danger of deportation through its sweeping definition of “criminal gang.”

Flake’s bill, called the Border Security and Deferred Action Recipient Relief Act, would also fund 74 miles of border fortifications and fencing, plus the construction of new access roads to allow Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to more easily patrol the border.

Representatives Raúl Grijalva of Tucson and Luis Gutierrez of Illinois have said they will attempt to hold up the federal budget in December if Congress does not vote on a clean DREAM Act free of border militarization measures.

Congresspeople are scrambling to pass a replacement for DACA before the program is set to expire in March. Many people are skeptical Congress can find a solution in such a short period of time. But Flake is optimistic. “There are some people in the Congress who don’t want to provide any relief, who think that it would be an amnesty to let any child that was brought here by their parents, to allow them to stay. But I think that’s a very small view in terms of numbers in Congress,” Flake told KTAR radio. “Most – the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats – want to solve this issue.”

Flake also said that the DACA expiration date and threat of more than 800,000 young immigrants being in danger of deportation will spur Congress into action. “When you have a deadline like that, then there’s far more incentive and motivation to meet it. So I am confident that we’ll get it done. And it has wide support dealing with this DACA issue, particularly when you couple it with border security.”

You can read a summary of Flake’s bill here and the full text here.