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Senator Lankford Explains How Secure and Succeed Act Is a Sensible Compromise on Senate Floor

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor to discuss the current debate on immigration reform and to advocate for the Secure and Succeed Act, a compromise bill that will strengthen border security, provide a permanent solution for DACA, reform family sponsorship policy, and reallocate the Diversity Visa lottery. Later today, the Senate will vote on this (as the Grassley” amendment #1959), as well as another proposal (amendment #1958) offered by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mike Rounds (R-SD). Earlier this week, Lankford joined Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Joni Ernst (R-IA), David Perdue (R-GA), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to introduce the Secure and Succeed Act.


On the months of bipartisan negotiations between the House, Senate, and White House:

For months, there has been preparation to put immigration bills on the floor, but as of earlier this week there was only one bill that actually proposed to be put out there, and that was the President’s bill to say here is a middle ground position. After months of negotiations and White House meetings with everybody, both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate, the White House said, here’s a middle ground and I would tell you the White House has moved a tremendous amount in this and dropped a tremendous number of issues. Over the course of the past several months, the White House has moved away from a lot of things. They moved away from legal status to say, okay, let’s do citizenship. It is not just citizenship for the 690,000 individuals currently in DACA, but the White House opened this up to the individuals who are not only DACA students but those who are DACA eligible. Those who did not sign up for the process but could have qualified for it. What’s interesting enough is, the President even moved from President Obama’s position. President Obama’s position for DACA was you had to be in the country by 2007. President Trump moved that and said he will be more open to that and say you had to be in the country by the time President Obama announced the program in 2012. That was a significant concession which opened up almost a million more individuals into the program. 

On the tradeoffs the White House has made to ensure border security, permanent solution for DACA, reform family sponsorship policy, and reallocate the Diversity Visa lottery:

The tradeoff was pretty straightforward. It hit a long list of the items to be able to provide border security, including interior enforcement and border security. And over the past couple of months, the President backed up and said, okay, Democrats don’t want any interior enforcement of any immigration laws added in any way. The President backed up and said, let’s start with border security. We want to be able to interior security in the days ahead. But, we want to start with border security. The President wanted to be able it to address the issue of sanctuary cities. That’s not addressed in this bill. He dropped that. The President wanted to deal with asylum reform. He dropped that issue from his proposal. There’s no conversation about refugees and changing how that structure would work, there’s no conversation about the H Visa programs. He dropped a lot of issues important to the White House and said, okay, we’ll deal with those a different day. Let’s limit this to this narrow group of four issues and that’s all we will deal with. And, he dropped away a lot of other issues. Border security, dealing with citizenship for those in DACA or DACA eligible, dealing with family migration and how that works together and dealing with the diversity lottery. That’s it. Everything else was dropped away. Not comprehensive, small. 

On the Lankford’s concerns with the bipartisan agreement on DACA:

…under some of the bipartisan bills that are coming out, you prove yourself to be a DACA-eligible individual by your own verbal statement that you are eligible. No documentation is required. I think that’s an obvious loophole that if you are DACA eligible, even in fact under President Obama’s proposal if you are DACA eligible, you have to show documentation that you are DACA-eligible. In this new proposals, you don’t. You just have to say you’re eligible and suddenly you’re eligible. That is a major problem. The structure of how some of bipartisan agreements have come out also become a big issue for me. Because it doesn’t really deal with this 10-years. In one section of the bill, it says it is a ten-year path toward citizenship. I don’t have any issue with that if we deal with border security—to have a 10-year path to citizenship. That allows us 10-years to deal with border security. It gives certainty to those individuals in the country that they are headed towards citizenship. I have absolutely no problem with that. But the bipartisan agreement that has come out doesn’t do that. It says in one section a 10-year path to citizenship and another section it gives the recipient the opportunity to get a legal permanent residency, a green card much faster which moves it to a faster track. It is a little bit sleight of hand. To say 10 years in one part and in another part, it is five to seven years. I would say, say what you mean. Don’t say two different things and have two different paths. 

I was also interested in a change that was slipped in at the very back of the bipartisan bill that makes an enormous change into the status of every single individual in the country. Let me just read this to you. Because it’s being said this bill is just about a wall and just about DACA, but let me read this section to you in the back of the bill. ‘In carrying out immigration enforcement activities, the Secretary shall prioritize available immigration enforcement resources to aliens who have been convicted of felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanor offenses, pose a threat to national security or public safety, or are unlawfully present in the United States.’ ‘And,’ that is an important word in there ‘and they arrived in the United States after June 30, 2018.’ Do you know what that says? That says that the Department of Homeland Security can’t go after anyone in the country illegally that arrived here before June 30, 2018. In other words, the race is on. If you go get into the country and across the border before June 30 of this year, you are in and you have amnesty. For millions, that is not about DACA. That is every single individual in the country unlawfully present. If you’re in the country unlawfully present before June 30 of this year, according to this bill, you are in until you commit a felony. As long as you don’t do that, you’ll never have enforcement of any type. I was stunned to be able to see that slipped into the back of the bill. Again, this was dropped last night, and we still have the opportunity to be able to go through it.