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February 17, 2018

USA Act is a bipartisan solution for Dreamers with reasonable border security

California is home to the largest population of DACA recipients in America, with about one-third of them calling our state home. For many of them, it’s the only home they have ever known. As we approach yet another deadline in Washington, the time has come to provide them permanent certainty.

For too long, the government has asked hundreds of thousands of young people to put their lives on hold while Congress plays politics with their futures. Last month, we –  along with U.S. Representative Will Hurd (TX-23) – introduced the Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act with 50 original co-sponsors, 25 from each party. The bill was also introduced with bipartisan support in the Senate by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Christopher Coons (D-DE). This bipartisan, bicameral bill protects DACA recipients from deportation while implementing new commonsense border security measures through enhanced technology, manpower and physical barriers where necessary. The bill also addresses the immigration court backlog that keeps families in limbo while advancing reforms in Central America to address the factors driving migration to the United States.

The USA Act represents a real bipartisan compromise that will provide a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers. Broader than just DACA recipients, the USA Act applies to all Dreamers. With a legally-defined status, these individuals would be able to remain in America while working towards full citizenship. This means they could continue to work, pursue a degree, enlist in our military and otherwise fully plan their lives without the fear that their futures could be destroyed by an administrative decision.

As with any successful piece of legislation, there must be compromise to move forward. The USA Act includes a reasonable approach to border security that will crack down on drug and human trafficking across our borders. Technology is a key component and will give border patrol agents the tools they need to achieve operational control of the border by 2020. It also calls for the Department of Homeland Security to – within one year – submit a detailed, mile-per-mile assessment of the southern border and make recommendations for which physical barriers, levees or technology will be most successful on each mile and the cost to implement the recommendations. Furthermore, the bill increases support for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) air and marine surveillance and helps CBP coordinate with state, local and tribal law enforcement on border security.

Finally, the USA Act includes provisions that address the root cause of many immigration problems in general, namely reducing the immigration court backlog and reforming U.S. strategy with regard to Central America. The bill calls for a minimum increase of 165 immigration judges and 69 immigration attorneys by the end of 2020, and it modernizes and streamlines case management through an improved electronic processing system. Moving people through the system in a timely manner encourages legal entry for families and individuals motivated to pursue a better life in America.

The USA Act is a focused and commonsense attempt at protecting our nation’s Dreamers, and addresses our most pressing immigration priorities. A narrow, bipartisan approach is the best option for meeting the deadline before us. California needs this compromise now as well as more comprehensive immigration reform moving forward. Dreamers are American in every way, except on paper. They have paid their fees – some of them multiple times – passed comprehensive background checks and contributed in so many ways to the greatness of this country. Putting in place a permanent solution like the USA Act is the right thing to do and must occur now.