By Tal Kopan
May 10, 2017
Washington (CNN)Two top Republican lawmakers from Texas are quietly working on an immigration and border security bill, sources say, in what could be the first credible effort to deliver a legislative win on immigration policy under President Donald Trump.
House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, along with Senate homeland committee Chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have been working with input from GOP leadership and the Trump administration to craft the bill, according to multiple sources familiar with the work who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of ongoing discussions.
The legislation is still in flux, though copies of an early draft have floated around Washington. The focus will be strengthening defenses at the border and enforcement of immigration laws in the interior of the US, and will likely include a mix of upping resources and staffing at the border as well as tweaking some immigration law and authorities to clear the way for more aggressive immigration enforcement, according to sources familiar with the direction.
The leadership by McCaul and Cornyn signal a desire to put together a conservative bill that can pass both the House and Senate, but avoid pitfalls by the farther right wing on immigration policy, many of which Trump has aligned himself with.
“We’re not going to spend all this energy and effort for messaging,” said a source familiar.
Focusing specifically on border security and interior enforcement also avoids some of the more contested issues on immigration, like visa reform and pathways to citizenship. That would require more bipartisan compromise and have failed in the past.
It is highly unlikely that many Democrats would vote for a bill that beefs up enforcement without relief of undocumented immigrants living in the US, so lawmakers will need the support of the full Republican conference to pass such a bill in the House, plus would need a few moderate Democrats in the Senate to get to 60 votes.
By shaping the bill with McCaul and Cornyn, both bona fide border security hawks, and delaying the role of the chairmen of the respective judiciary committees, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Republicans could avoid some of the more controversial policies of the right that would likely scare off moderate members of the GOP caucus, whose votes would be critical to passage.
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