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Sen. Tillis Says He'll Offer Bill To Replace DACA

Sen. Thom Tillis
North Carolina General Assembly
Sen. Thom Tillis

Updated 4:54 p.m.

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is applauding the Trump administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA. Tillis said Tuesday morning it should be up to Congress to set a long-term policy on the status of immigrants who arrived as children.

Sen. Thom Tillis
Sen. Thom Tillis

He says he'll introduce legislation in the next week to provide a "fair and rigorous path for undocumented children to earn legal status."  Tillis says his bill would require immigrants to be working, pursuing  higher education or serving in the military.  

Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally announced Tuesday that the Trump administration is rescinding DACA. Sessions said the administration would give Congress time to pass legislation. About 800,000 people nationally have gained DACA status since 2012 - about 27,000 in North Carolina, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Immigration policy must be set through legislation, not executive orders. That was the fundamental flaw underpinning DACA and the reason it’s highly unlikely to survive a legal challenge," Tillis said in a statement.

The Senate bill would be similar to one introduced last March in the House by Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida. Dubbed the Recognizing America's Children Act, it so far hasn't progressed in the House.

Like DACA, that bill would apply to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were under 16 years old. They would have to have been in the U.S. continuously since Jan. 1, 2012.

For those now over 18, the House bill would require that they have a high school diploma or equivalent, be admitted to an institution of higher education, or have a valid work authorization. It also says they must be of "good moral character."

Charlotte’s Latin American Coalition says Tillis’s proposal still makes it too hard for these immigrants to become citizens. But director Jose Hernandez-Paris says he’s encouraged that it would include a path to legal status for those covered by DACA. 

"We know that this is not a perfect solution; however, we understand the legislative process, and are very encouraged by the Senator’s inclusion of a path to citizenship in his original proposal," Paris said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "We will continue to strongly advocate for a less-restrictive policy and for a no-strings attached approach to a permanent legislative solution."

Tillis said he hopes Democrats will get on board with the legislation.

"I know this kind of common sense legislative fix can and should unite members of Congress, and I’ll be working closely with my colleagues on the path forward. It’s up to my Democratic colleagues to decide whether they want a permanent solution or to make this a political wedge issue. I hope they’ll choose bipartisanship,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger said that President Trump is correct to ask Congress to review DACA. He says even though the so-called "dreamers" were brought here as children, there's still the rule of law. He doesn't want new legislation to make any exceptions.    

"Pathway to citizenship is out. You get a pathway to citizenship by entering this country in the proper way. We should respect those who have come in the proper way. And, no, it should not arbitrarily provide citizenship to somebody who didn't go through the rules." 

Democratic Representative Alma Adams of Charlotte called Trump's move unacceptable and says she will work to defend DACA. She says for many in the DACA program, the U.S. is the only home they've ever known. They're neighbors, friends and taxpayers, she says. 


Immigrant groups around Charlotte are planning events to speak out against the end of DACA.

A midday rally was being held Tuesday in Raleigh, outside a courthouse across the street from the state capitol building.

In Charlotte, the Latin American Coalition plans a press conference at 4 p.m. Tuesday outside the Charlotte office of Senator Tillis.  Meanwhile, the activist group Comunidad Colectiva scheduled a press conference and "Speak Out" at 6:30 p.m. in Marshall Park in uptown Charlotte.

This piece was updated to reflect that while the Latin American Coalition finds it encouraging that Tillis's proposal includes a pathway to citizenship, the group doesn't support the plan.


Sept. 5, 2007, Department of Homeland Security fact sheet on the end of DACA

Sept. 5, 2017, Sen. Thom Tillis statement about the end of DACA, House.gov

March 22, 2017, Recognizing America's Children Act text as introduced in the House.

Copyright 2017 WFAE

David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including DavidsonNews.net and The Charlotte Observer.
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