The long journey to U.S. immigration reform took a new turn recently, with a bipartisan coalition of senators announcing a proposal supporting the extension of Title 42. This previously little-known health policy was invoked under the Trump Administration amid the height of the COVID pandemic to protect and limit immigration at the border. Crucially, the Senate deal includes an agreement on the status of the so-called “Dreamers” — those who entered the U.S. illegally as children.
Unfortunately, because some on the right vigorously oppose any immigration reform deal, there is likely no other path to allow the optimization of Title 42 restrictions, which currently allow illegal migrants and others to be expelled. Due to a court ruling, those regulations will expire before the end of December if Congress does not reinstate them.
Opposition by conservative lawmakers to the deal is shortsighted at best. If Title 42 is lifted, there will be a new migrant surge at our border. Protections for Dreamers, who were mostly brought to the U.S. through no choice of their own, are a small price to pay for enhanced border security measures supported by President Donald Trump himself.
Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) are leading this immigration and border framework that should satisfy elements of the right and the left. DACA recipients currently live in a unique legal gray area. They are not subject to deportation, yet lack a traditional status that gives them certainty to apply for jobs and become permanent residents. This situation motivated Sinema to reach out to Tillis to find some common ground to increase border security for the people of Sinema’s home state of Arizona while giving some certainty to DACA recipients. Their goal is to pass the deal in the lame-duck Congressional session.
Thanks to the federal relief provided by DACA, Dreamers are protected from deportation. Opposing the Tillis-Sinema deal to “look tough” on illegal immigration will prevent legislation that can stop Title 42 from expiring on December 21. Ironically, the tough-talking supporters of increased border security would create the conditions for more surges and exacerbate our already dire immigration crisis by allowing Title 42 to expire.
This deal would also prevent Border Patrol agents from spending all their time on asylum petitions. Instead, they can go back into the field and do their jobs. Further, the proposed agreement would allow for more resources to be dedicated to immigration judges and allow officers to do a better job of protecting the border and processing legitimate asylum claims.
Most importantly, the proposal has buy-in from those most involved and affected. Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, issued a statement on the Tillis-Sinema framework indicating that his organization is working with the Senate offices on the legislation.
According to Judd, “[T]his framework may not fix everything that is wrong at the border and with our immigration system, but it at least prevents the asylum process from completely dismantling border security. Our agents have an important job to do, and this framework allows them to get back to work — in the field.”
Back in 2019, amid a government shutdown, CNBC reported that, “President Donald Trump on Saturday proposed limited legal protections for undocumented immigrants in exchange for money to build his proposed border wall, a plan meant to put pressure on congressional Democrats as the longest government shutdown ever drags into its 29th day.”
The proposed 2019 deal included $5.7 billion for a border wall and would have provided temporary legal status and work authorizations for three years for the estimated pool of 700,000 young undocumented immigrants who qualified for the DACA program. This would have been a big win for President Trump, but Democratic opposition ultimately scuttled it. The Tillis-Sinema deal gives conservatives another chance with an even more favorable outcome – they just need to be smart enough to take it.
If Title 42 expires, the magnet for migrants to come and claim asylum for the purpose of crossing the border into the U.S. will resume. The Tillis-Sinema deal is a good one that will end the slow tide of illegal immigration. Conservatives who want to take a strong stand on the issue should support a deal that protects people unlikely to be a priority for deportation in the future and takes genuine steps to secure our border.
Cesar Conda, former Chief of Staff to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Chief Domestic Policy Advisor to Vice President Cheney, is a Founding Partner of Navigators Global LLC).
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller