Two Long Island congressmen are crafting a $10 billion bipartisan proposal that would provide a path to legal status for immigrants who otherwise would lose protection from deportation, as well as bolster border security and supply funding for the physical barrier desired by President Donald Trump.
Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) are laying out key principles on a deal that would include provisions for legalization for immigrants from countries facing the expiration of temporary protected status, or TPS, as well as young immigrants known as Dreamers, brought illegally to the United States as minors.
The joint legislative proposal seeks a middle path between Democrats who don’t want to fund Trump’s border wall and Republicans who have opposed compromises over the last decade that offered those immigrants legal residency.
The bill would authorize $4.3 billion for about 700 miles of “physical structures” at the border and an additional $4.3 billion for border technology improvements, personnel costs and other programs focused on preventing migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Another $1.4 billion would be for administrative costs.
Trump campaigned for a wall along the southern border that he said Mexico would pay for, but earlier this year said it could be “a physical barrier” made of steel, rather than concrete, and costing $5.7 billion.
The congressmen's measure, to be introduced within weeks, is a bipartisan alternative to another House bill that Democrats, including Suozzi and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), have signed on to this month. That legislation does not fund border security.
Suozzi said many affected immigrants “are trying their best, and on top of the normal anxiety of life — the school and jobs and family and health — they have to worry about being kicked out of the country” while no workable compromise is offered. “It drives me crazy when even people on my side propose some idealistic solution that is never going to get done.”
King said those with different outlooks shouldn’t be so far apart.
“I always thought we had to find a way to help the Dreamers and TPS; Tom [Suozzi] has always wanted some security, but we realized we had to put it in the same bill,” King said. “Maybe we can use this example of two people who can go ahead in a bipartisan way, without sacrificing principles or ideology.”
The legalization plan would include immediate relatives of immigrants in those categories and potentially could benefit about 5 million people nationwide, the congressmen said. To qualify, immigrants who otherwise are law-abiding would be required to pay an administrative fee of $2,000, which would go toward the measure's $10 billion cost.
The immigrants who would benefit make up a significant chunk of about 10.7 million people in the country illegally, according to 2017 estimates.
The fight over the fate of Dreamers goes back to the administration’s September 2017 decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an executive action issued under former President Barack Obama to shield those young immigrants from deportation. Nearly 675,000 are active in the program, according to the latest federal government figures, and several federal lawsuits challenging the decision to end it are pending.
On the TPS front, immigrants from countries in turmoil because of war, natural disasters and other extraordinary circumstances had been protected from deportation. Under the Trump administration, they have faced a series of deadlines on the status’ termination. More than 417,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen fall under the TPS banner.
One Long Islander with temporary protected status has especially caught Suozzi’s attention, because the young man grew up and lives in Glen Cove, attended school with the congressman’s daughter and has built an impressive record since he was brought from El Salvador at age 5.
His name is Mario Serrano-Sosa. In 2013, he graduated third in his class from Glen Cove High School and has gone on to complete his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering at Stony Brook University, where he now is a candidate for a doctoral degree.
“He’s an all-American kid,” Suozzi said.
Yet, Serrano-Sosa could be deported if TPS goes away.
Going back would halt his academic research on the use of machine learning, or artificial intelligence, for medical applications, but to him it’s about more than his professional prospects.
He remembers growing up steeped in the life of suburban Glen Cove — saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school, riding his bike on the tree-lined streets, and competing in football, wrestling and track and field.
“This is where I, you know, grew my roots,” said Serrano-Sosa, 24. “I love America. I don’t have anything back in El Salvador.”
Immigrants included in proposal
These figures represent the latest totals available from the federal government. The total DACA figures are from Feb. 19, 2019, and the state DACA population was tallied as of Aug. 31, 2018. The TPS figures were updated as of Nov. 29, 2018.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was an executive action issued in June 2012 under President Barack Obama to protect from deportation young immigrants brought to the United States as minors, also known as “Dreamers.”
President Donald Trump’s administration announced in September 2017 that it was terminating the program. The matter is tied up in federal courts in New York, Maryland, Texas and Washington, D.C., so those immigrants continue to be protected under DACA.
DACA recipients nationwide: About 674,900
DACA recipients in New York: About 32,000
Temporary protected status, or TPS, is a designation granted by the secretary of homeland security as a form of humanitarian relief to countries that cannot handle the return of their nationals because of armed conflict, environmental disasters, epidemics or other extraordinary conditions.
Immigrants from the designated countries were on different timelines for the expiration or renewal of their statuses. The Trump administration had announced the termination of various countries where it deemed conditions had improved since the protection was granted.
Total TPS recipients: 417,341
Total TPS recipients in New York: 51,475
TPS recipients by country of origin
El Salvador: 251,526
South Sudan: 83
Sources: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, National Immigration Law Center