WASHINGTON — An immigration bill pitched as a compromise between conservative and moderate Republicans would make sweeping changes to the United States’ immigration system while establishing a special visa program that would give young undocumented immigrants the chance to become citizens based on factors like employment and education.
The draft bill, circulating among lawmakers on Thursday afternoon and up for a vote next week, closely adheres to President Trump’s vision for an immigration overhaul. In addition to protecting the young immigrants, it provides billions of dollars for a wall on the southwest border while imposing new limits on legal immigration.
The bill would also toughen rules for asylum seekers. And it would address the separation of children from parents under the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal border crossings by mandating that families be kept together while in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, according to a summary of the measure.
In effect, the measure would offer Democrats and immigration moderates in the Republican Party a difficult choice: accept hard-line changes to much of the immigration system in exchange for protections for young undocumented immigrants and what appears to be a modification of the wrenching policy of splitting up families at the border.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, tried Thursday to blame Democrats for the family-separation policy that the Trump administration started — because Democrats have refused to accept the broader changes in immigration policy demanded by the president.
“The separation of illegal alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close, and these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade,” she said.
The proposed bill, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018, grew out of weeks of negotiations between Republican conservatives and moderates.
“We’re bringing legislation that’s been carefully crafted and negotiated to the floor,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said Thursday. “We won’t guarantee passage.”
And its passage is far from assured. Within hours of the draft’s release, Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that it would urge lawmakers to vote against the measure, deriding it as “amnesty.”
Immigration rights groups are almost certain to oppose it, as well. And Democrats, who were cut out of negotiations, will most likely oppose it.
“It is nothing more than a cruel codification of President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda that abandons our nation’s heritage as