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Congress contemplates last-minute bipartisan immigration proposal

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have drafted a framework for an immigration policy that provides a route to citizenship for millions of young undocumented immigrants in exchange for more stringent border security, CNN reports. The bipartisan duo hopes to garner support for the bill in the final days of the lame-duck session, but some lawmakers remain unsure. 

The urgency of this last-minute push for a compromise on immigration is heightened in light of the impending end of Title 42 and the possibility of a federal judge ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The 2012 policy protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, known as DREAMers, from deportation. 

Tillis and Sinema's proposed framework includes provisions for granting legal status to 2 million DACA recipients in exchange for at least $25 billion in increased funding for Border Patrol and border security, per The Washington Post. The proposal would also extend Title 42 for at least a year until new "regional processing centers" are constructed, according to a Senate aide, per the Post. The Trump-era border policy that allowed for mass expulsions of asylum seekers amid the COVID-19 pandemic is set to end later this month following a court order. 

The framework details have yet to be finalized, and lawmakers haven't written any legislative text. The lack of clarity and the rapid approach of the end of the year makes it unclear if they can solicit enough votes to push the legislation forward. 

Several senators pointed out that they have yet to see any finalized legislation, making it difficult to gauge whether they can support it, Semafor reports. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J) told Semafor that while he's spoken to Sinema, he'd only seen "snippets" of the bill. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is also awaiting final details before lending his support. "When they actually come together with the document, then I'll be able to form a judgment," he said.

Other senators remain optimistic about the bill, applauding the bipartisan effort of their peers, per CNN. 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "As the author of the original Dream Act more than 20 years ago, I applaud every good faith effort to give these deserving individuals a path to citizenship. I've been in touch with my colleagues and will carefully review their proposal." He added, "I am determined to do everything in my power to help deliver a Christmas Miracle for Dreamers."