Senate Republican offers compromise to let Dreamers stay

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 04, 2015 10:06 AM

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate Republican on Wednesday proposed breaking the impasse in Congress over President Barack Obama's immigration policies by blocking only his 2014 executive order affecting the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

The amendment from Senator Susan Collins of Maine would not affect Obama's 2012 program that helped undocumented child immigrants, widely known as the "Dreamers" program.

The amendment marked a crack in Republican solidarity behind a House of Representative-passed bill that would defund the actions that Obama took both in 2012 and 2014 to lift the threat of deportation for millions of people.

The fight raging in Congress over Obama's immigration policy has delayed passage of a Department of Homeland Security funding bill; the agency faces a Feb. 27 deadline when money runs out.

Collins said she could not support the provision in the House-passed legislation that would undo the Dreamers program for undocumented children.

“I just think it's not right to send them back to their home countries when many of them have known no other home than America, and they didn’t make the decision to come here, their parents brought them here," Collins told reporters.

"That's the sweet spot for getting this bill passed," she said, referring to the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the immigration programs.

However, many Democrats are unlikely to go along with a bill that blocks Obama's November executive order.

Democrats, including Obama, are pushing for a bill to fund DHS without any conditions attached.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday derailed the Republican effort on a procedural vote, but another Senate procedural vote on the House-passed bill is likely on Wednesday. Collins said she hoped her proposal would convince some Democrats to allow the House bill to come up for debate and possible amendment.

Earlier Tuesday, a Senate committee was told a government agency could struggle to process millions of undocumented immigrants who may apply for legal protection under Obama's 2014 executive order.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles immigrant visa and naturalization petitions, could be overwhelmed by the surge later this year even if it hires an additional 1,000 workers as planned, said Luke Bellocchi, a former deputy ombudsman to the agency.

Bellocchi said 4.5 million additional applications are expected in the coming months.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Bill Trott and Leslie Adler)