U.S. Rep. John Katko said Tuesday he's reviewing legislation that would achieve similar goals as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that President Donald Trump rescinded this week.
One bill under consideration by Katko, R-Camillus, is the Recognizing America's Children Act. The legislation is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican, and would provide legal status to individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
To achieve legal status, the undocumented immigrants must be employed, enrolled in college or serving in the military. Anyone with a significant criminal history would be ineligible for legalization.
Curbelo noted that many of the young people are law-abiding citizens who aren't familiar with their parents' home country. The U.S., he said, is "the only country they have ever called home."
DACA is a policy implemented by the Obama administration that would allow children of undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation as long as they were attending school, employed or serving in the armed forces and didn't have a significant criminal history.
The Obama administration attempted to expand DACA, which led states to challenge the policy in federal court. That legal fight was cited as a reason why Trump opted to discontinue DACA.
Trump is giving Congress six months to develop a legislative alternative to DACA. Curbelo's bill is receiving more attention from his colleagues, including Katko.
As of Wednesday, Curbelo's measure has 20 cosponsors. Four New York Republicans — U.S. Reps. Chris Collins, Dan Donovan, John Faso and Tom Reed — support the bill.
"That's definitely one of the ones I'm looking at. That's probably the biggest one," Katko said in a phone interview Tuesday. "That's the one that's most commonsensical to me because it incentivizes people to be productive members of society. It will not reward them with citizenship, but it would reward them with some sort of status over a period of time if they showed a demonstrated productivity, either scholastically or employment-wise. That's good. I'm intrigued by that."
Katko reiterated his position on DACA. While he doesn't oppose granting legal status to children who were brought to the U.S. illegally, he believes the Obama administration's action amounted to executive overreach. He also thinks it's "highly unlikely" that DACA would've been upheld in federal court.
He's hopeful that Trump's decision to rescind the DACA order will compel Congress to act on immigration and border security. He recently outlined his stance on immigration reform at an agricultural forum in Wayne County.
Katko suggested that a larger immigration bill could include a provision that provides protections for children who were brought to the U.S. illegally.
"We need to do the whole package and this could be a very key component of that package," he said. "But we do need to act on it and I'm glad the president gave us six months. I'm glad there's a deadline because it's going to give us time — not a ton of time — to get something done."