Tillis, Sinema working out bipartisan immigration deal in U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis asks a question during a committee hearing. (Image from C-SPAN.org)

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  • North Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis is helping finalize a bipartisan immigration deal, according to the Washington Post.
  • The deal worked out with Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema would offer a path to citizenship for so-called "dreamer" illegal immigrants. It also would spend $25 billion more for border security.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic colleague Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have outlined an “11th-hour immigration deal” on Capitol Hill, according to the Washington Post.

The deal would set out a “path to legalization” for 2 million illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. In exchange for help for these immigrants labeled “dreamers,” the deal would pump an additional $25 billion into the federal Border Patrol and border security, according to the newspaper.

“The bipartisan framework, which is in flux, would also extend Title 42 for at least a year until new ‘regional processing centers’ provided for in the bill could be built, according to a Senate aide,” according to the Post report.

The Trump administration instituted use of Title 42 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump’s team argued for the immediate expulsion of illegal immigrants because of the public health crisis.

Regional processing centers “would mirror what is outlined in the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, a bicameral deal proposed last year, and would hold migrants while they have their immigration cases heard and adjudicated more quickly, to replace the current process in which many asylum seekers are released and given a full court hearing, which can be months or years away,” according to the newspaper report.

The Tillis-Sinema deal is one of two immigration proposals the Washington Post highlights. Another led by Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho focuses on citizenship for illegal immigrant farmworkers.

“The last-minute push comes as Congress faces the end of another term without addressing an immigration overhaul and as the United States braces for the end of mass expulsions on the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as the possibility that a federal judge will wind down an Obama-era program that shields dreamers from being deported,” the Post reported.

News of a potential immigration deal arrives less than a week after Tillis played a key role in working out bipartisan support for the Respect for Marriage Act. That bill increased federal government protection for same-sex marriages.

“One, it maintains the status quo with respect to same-sex marriage that was set forth by the Supreme Court decision, but then we make a lot of progress on ensuring that religious-affiliated institutions are still able to observe their faith and the way that they have for decades or centuries, and I think that we’ve struck that balance,” Tillis said in a virtual press conference touting the measure.

Groups like the Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom disagreed with Tillis’ assessment of the bill. They called it “deceptively named.” They say the legislation puts a target on religious organizations who believe marriage is between one man and one woman.

“The issue is not the ability to believe in man-woman marriage, but the ability to live out those beliefs meaningfully in society and not be labeled a bigot by the government for doing so,” said Roger Severino of the Heritage Foundation.

Severino and other opponents believe that the measure is an effort to head off the U.S. Supreme Court from revisiting the 2015 Obergfell v. Hodges decision, in which the court decided 5-4 that several states violated the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment in bans on same-sex marriage or refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages that occurred in jurisdictions that provided for such marriages.