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Exclusive: Senators Reach Deal to Save Dreamers and Wall

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Originally published by Daily Beast

Congressional negotiators finalized an immigration deal on Thursday that would codify legal protections for undocumented minors while giving President Donald Trump some tangible victories of his own.

The deal, which was forged in the Senate, still faces major hurdles; chief among them a healthy skepticism from conservatives—including some officials in the White House—and a difficult path to passage in the House. But one lawmaker told The Daily Beast that there was a “growing sense of optimism” that negotiators had crafted an agreement that could, at a minimum, pass the Senate and put pressure on the House to act.

Congressional sources and lawmakers were universally cagey in discussing the specifics, but after The Daily Beast reported on the the basic contours of the agreement, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) confirmed the details that were initially described by aides and lobbyists privy to the negotiations.

The final deal will codify the legal protections for so-called DREAMers that Trump rescinded when he ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that began under his predecessor. The deal also seeks to undo another Trump decision: the termination of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for certain groups of immigrants, including Salvadorans, 200,000 of whom could face an end to their legal status in 2019.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, Flake confirmed those details to The Daily Beast. He said the DACA fix agreed to as part of the deal includes a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. Additionally, they will have to wait 12 years from the time they are awarded protected status before they can gain citizenship, according to a congressional source familiar with the negotiations, and they can earn up to two years of credit for any time spent as a DACA beneficiary. Groups of immigrants such as Salvadorans would be able to access the diversity visa lottery program if they have Temporary Protected Status, according to Flake.

In exchange for backpedaling two of his initiatives, Trump would score some real policy victories. The deal will revamp but not end the visa lottery program, numerous sources said. The formula for so-called chain migration—the policy whereby lawful permanent residents can sponsor immigrants to the U.S.—was re-drawn in a way that alters the ability of those DREAMers to sponsor their relatives for legal status.

“The covered population—the parents who brought their kids across the border illegally—would not be able to access a citizenship track by virtue of their children,” Flake said. “So we’ve cut chain migration with regard to the covered population.”

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