WASHINGTON, Jan 11, 2018 (BSS/AFP) - US Republican lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled an immigration package that would tighten border security, end chain migration and fund President Donald Trump's border wall, while shielding nearly a million so-called "Dreamers" from deportation.
The legislation was introduced just minutes after Trump said that any legislation that protects such undocumented immigrants would need to fund a wall along the US-Mexico border -- one of the primary pledges of his 2016 presidential campaign.
"Any solution has to include the wall because without the wall, it all doesn't work," Trump told reporters at the White House.
"We need the wall for security. We need the wall for safety."
Congress is grappling with how to break an impasse over the "Dreamers" -- immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, but were permitted to stay under Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Trump scrapped DACA last September, but left a six-month window for Congress to craft a solution by March, when thousands of immigrants would face deportation.
He met with two dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers Tuesday at the White House, urging them to craft a compromise that would accommodate the Dreamers but also achieve some immigration reforms.
"The president indicated that our bill, the Securing America's Future Act, is the starting point to correct the flaws in our immigration system," House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte told reporters.
"This bill funds the border wall and secures ports of entry along the southern border.
It also increases boots on the ground," limits immigrants from bringing family members into the country in the future, and ends the green card lottery system, he added.
But it also includes conservative priorities like cracking down on sanctuary cities, and provides no special pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
As lawmakers race against time to find a fix, a US judge late Tuesday blocked Trump from scrapping DACA and ordered it maintained "on a nationwide basis," as legal challenges against it proceed.
But the White House and Democrats agreed that the ruling does not diminish the urgent need to resolve the issue.
The Republican legislation is certain to antagonize Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who wants a narrowly crafted DACA bill that includes border security enhancements but no wall funding.
Goodlatte's bill, even if it passes the House, would have a harder time clearing the Senate, where it would need support from at least nine Democrats.
Schumer expressed support for a bipartisan group of senators working on a deal, and said it was crucial that any DACA agreement be part of a spending bill needed before a January 19 deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown.