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U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)EXPAND
U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)
TigerDirect / Flickr

Curbelo's "Pro-Dreamer" Bill Cuts Legal Immigration, Funds Border Wall

Update 6/15: President Donald Trump has already told the media he does not plan to sign the "more moderate" bill if it comes to his desk. Trump somehow claims the bill is not harsh enough.

Carlos Curbelo, the allegedly moderate Republican U.S. representative who represents South Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys, is staking his reelection effort on passing a bill protecting "Dreamers," a class of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Curbelo's 26th congressional district is a Democrat-heavy swing area that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the congressman seems terrified he might lose his seat this November.

Well, the text of the "immigration compromise" that Curbelo fought so hard to draft is finally here, and as many people already predicted, it sucks. First, the good: The bill, if passed, would ban the Department of Homeland Security from separating parents from their children at the border.

Unfortunately, that's basically the only "moderate" provision here. Though the bill technically provides a new path to citizenship for the nation's 1.8 million Dreamers, that path is really difficult and circuitous: The bill creates a new, "merit-based" green card system for both Dreamers and other kinds of legal immigrants. Dreamers can apply for green cards five years after obtaining legal nonimmigrant status, but those cards will be awarded according to a "point-based" system that judges immigrants by education level, English proficiency, military service, and employment level. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who can't obtain green cards this way may renew their DACA status every six years but will not be given a path to citizenship.

The rest of the bill reads like a xenophobe's wet dream. To find a "compromise" with the racists and immigration hawks, Curbelo apparently agreed to some really draconian cuts to the American immigration system. The bill trims the legal "diversity immigrant visa" program (AKA the "green-card lottery" system that Donald Trump hates) and allocates those 55,000 visas to the merit-based pool. It also eliminates portions of the family-reunification process by which immigrants can petition to bring relatives to the United States legally. (This affects married children of U.S. citizens and siblings of U.S. citizens.) The bill also allows ICE to hold detainees for longer periods of time and makes it more difficult to apply for asylum: Under the new rules, border officials would have to investigate fully whether asylum claims were "true" before letting people into the country.

The bill also allocates a whopping $25 billion more for U.S. "border security" despite the fact that Curbelo and his companion on this bill, Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, often position themselves as budget hawks. More than $16 billion of that money is earmarked to build Donald Trump's insane border wall. (The bill stipulates that if the $25 billion is rescinded, the funding for DACA visas also vanishes.) And the measure lets the National Guard assist in matters of border security.

Curbelo preemptively tweeted this morning that the only people who would oppose the bill would be "destructive extremists on either side of this debate" who would "do anything possible to block meaningful immigration reform that protects Dreamers and makes all Americans safer by securing the border." To Curbelo, it's just bellyaching to point out the bill's obvious logical flaws (there's no evidence that enhanced border security lowers the crime rate, for example) or to mention that most of these anti-immigrant provisions, such as cutting the visa lottery, are far to the right of traditional policy, even for Republicans.

The bill still faces a gigantic uphill battle to become law. For one, it's not even guaranteed to pass a House vote next week that Curbelo urged Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule. That vote hinges on getting the party's farthest-right members onboard, because Democrats will almost uniformly oppose scaling back the legal immigration system this way. Even if the bill passes through Congress, it will need to make it through the Senate, where it would almost certainly need some Democratic support. (Congress next week will also vote on a bill written by the House Freedom Caucus that's even harsher than this one, though the details in the bill from Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte honestly don't sound that much more extreme than the ones in the "compromise" bill.)

In reality, this bill is mostly a PR stunt for Curbelo's reelection bid. His Democratic opponent, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, said in a news release yesterday that she thinks Cubelo has "handed over every piece of leverage on DACA to the most anti-immigrant Republicans in Congress." In light of all the attacks on legal immigration in the new bill, it's hard to argue with her.

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