AZ — Republican lawmakers on Tuesday blasted President Donald Trump’s proposed changes to immigration laws and urged his Democratic rivals to join them in opposing them.
But Arizona Republicans say they are committed to giving legal status to immigrants who have lived and worked here for years.
They say it would put Arizona in line with other states and the federal government, which has issued more than 200,000 DACA permits since Trump took office.
Trump is proposing changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which gives protections to nearly 800,000 people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
He also wants to end a program that provides a path to citizenship for those brought here illegally as minors.
Republican Sen. David Schweikert, a co-sponsor of a bill that would end DACA, said that if a Republican was elected president in 2020, it would be the first time the party would vote to end the program.
He said his bill, S.B. 542, would create a legal pathway to citizenship to those who were born in the United States and have been in the country for at least five years.
It would also allow DACA recipients to apply for renewable work permits.
“We are not going to be giving amnesty to people who are in this country illegally, but it’s the only way we can keep this country safe and get back to work,” Schweiketert said.
He also said Republicans would be willing to revisit the issue after they take office in 2020.
Schweikert said if Democrats were to win the presidency in 2020 and win a second term, they would need to pass their own legislation to end DACA and other immigration issues.
He said they should be able to do that.
“If Democrats can pass a comprehensive immigration bill that addresses DACA, they’ll be able, and that’s good for the country,” he said.
Arizona is among more than a dozen states that are considering bills to end and expand DACA.
The Republican-led state legislature is considering a bill on the issue that would provide work permits to about 3.3 million DACA recipients, including nearly 200,500 who have been living in Arizona for at most five years and would not be eligible for DACA protections.
Arizona Republicans say a work permit would be a lifeline for many people who have faced deportation.
“There are a lot of people that have been on the wrong side of the law, have been sent back to their countries, have experienced violence, and have families and kids that have left the country and are living in limbo right now,” Schweickert said Tuesday.
The Arizona Republican said he would not support a bill he says would do little to address DACA.
Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe of Arizona said the current law protects undocumented immigrants who are here for six years and who are eligible for work permits, but he said it could be extended for more years.
Ratcliffe said he also opposes the legalization of people who came here as children who have never committed a crime.
Ratcliffe said the federal law allows people who enter the country without legal authorization to be deported.
He opposes any legislation that would expand the DACA program, he said, because that would give “a legal pathway” to citizenship.