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New GOP immigration bill would tie legal status for DACA participants to border security funding

The measure would also bar the separation of children from their parent or legal guardian at the border, and provide $25 billion in additional funding for a border wall.

WASHINGTON — The new compromise GOP immigration bill includes provisions that would provide legal status for people who came to the U.S. illegally as children — including a path to citizenship — bar the separation of children from their parent or legal guardian at the border, and provide $25 billion in additional funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border.

But the measure would halt the issuance of green cards in the sixth year of the program if border security funding that Congress had previously allotted is suddenly blocked.

House Republican leaders released text of the highly anticipated measure Thursday afternoon to its members. The chamber is slated to vote on the legislation next week, in addition to a more conservative measure.

The 293-page bill would permit people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to apply for a “6-year indefinitely renewable contingent nonimmigrant legal status,” according to a summary of the measure distributed to members by the office of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. Under the provisions of the bill, participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would eventually be eligible to apply for green cards, and for citizenship.

To fund President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the bill would provide appropriations of $25 billion, meeting the president’s request, to subsidize the wall, border access roads, border technology and mobility, according to an official summary of the bill.

And it includes a provision stating that minors apprehended at the border must not be separated from their parent or legal guardian while in government custody.

The measure would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery, reallocating visas to a new merit-based visa program. The new program would be open to both children of migrant workers who were brought into the U.S. legally as minors and have been in the U.S. continuously for 10 years before the date of enactment as well as any person granted “contingent nonimmigrant status” because of DACA eligibility.

As a result of eliminating the diversity visa lottery, the measure would reallocate 55,000 visas to the new visa program. There’s one major caveat, however: It ties the issuing of the visas to the money spent on the border security.

The summary says, “Beginning in the sixth year of the program, the first green cards would be awarded under the new program only if the advanced appropriated funds for border security for that fiscal year have been made available for obligation, have not been transferred or reprogrammed for other nonborder security purposes, and have not been rescinded.”

Priority for the green cards will be based on a points system that focuses on education level, continuous employment, military service and English language proficiency, with more points awarded to those who achieve higher levels of education.

The bill also provides “clarification of standards for family detention,” which says that under no circumstances shall an undocumented child who isn’t unaccompanied be released by the secretary of homeland security other than to a parent or legal guardian.

Scalise’s team will begin gathering support for the measure during a Friday morning vote series ahead of an expected floor vote next week.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., a moderate who's been part of negotiations told reporters Thursday after the bill's release, said he and his allies were likely to seek changes: "We are still reviewing the draft and seeking some modifications to some of the sections I have already gone through and that process will continue."

Asked if the bill could pass the House, Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker, R-N.C., hinted at an uphill climb. "Is there a possibility? Maybe, but there are still some sticking issues there that we have to figure out and resolve — a lot of the RSC members are concerned about the E-Verify — which is another enforcement area. But to the credit, there has been a lot of movement in our direction so we will see what happens."

The White House has not publicly committed to the legislation. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was non-committal at the press briefing, telling reporters, “If the process leads to a permanent solution as outlined by the president, then we would support it.” Public support of the legislation by President Donald Trump would give the bill’s prospects a major boost, giving uneasy conservatives cover to support the measure.

But behind the scenes the White House has been involved. Immigration hardliner Stephen Miller, has been working with House negotiators, briefing the conservative Republican Study Committee on Wednesday on the details of the bill.

Moderate Republicans reached a deal with conservatives on Tuesday to allow two votes on the House floor next week — one on the compromise bill and one on a conservative bill sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. The agreed-upon strategy was the result of a discharge petition, which failed to garner 218 signatures by the Tuesday deadline in order to trigger immigration floor votes this month.

Ryan said at his weekly news conference Thursday that he would not predict how much support the compromise measure would receive. “We can’t guarantee passage,” he said — but that even so, “the last thing we want to do is have an exercise in futility like a discharge petition.”