“These individuals are literally in limbo, people without a country. We have to be able to resolve this,” Lankford said.
The senator declined to give details of the TillisLankford bill. There are about 7,500 DACA beneficiaries in Oklahoma.
“As the president mentioned this morning, many of these kids are graduating from school, they’ve got jobs, they’re very engaged,” he added. “They’re productive members of society. They are here and should be here. We’ve got to be able to resolve this legislatively.”
Lankford has been an outspoken supporter of DACA beneficiaries, even as the issue has divided Republicans. President Donald Trump, whose administration ended DACA, has called on Congress to protect DACA recipients.
“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” the president tweeted on Thursday.
Another Oklahoma City Republican, U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, has also made clear his support for DACA beneficiaries and urged Congress to protect them from deportation.
“They had no choice on being here when they came here as children through the actions of others,” he said in a statement last week. “A residency would give them a way to abide by our laws and then whether or not they would eventually become citizens would be on their own merits.”
Trump angered many hard-line conservative supporters late Wednesday when he struck a deal with Congress’s leading Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, that would trade his DACA support for enhanced border security but not a massive wall along the southern border, a priority for Trump supporters.
“That doesn’t surprise me, quite frankly, because I know logistics,” Lankford said of the absence of a wall in the bipartisan agreement.
“The Department of Homeland Security has yet to be able to explain to the Appropriations Committee or our committee what the wall would look like, where they would put it exactly, how it would be constructed, the final cost of it,” he added. “All those things are still up in the air. Until they can resolve those things, we shouldn’t have a border wall funding issue. They need to be able to resolve what they’re asking for so Congress will know what they’re actually funding.”
Lankford disagreed with conservative commentators who consider Trump’s deal making with Democrats on DACA to be political suicide.
“The vast majority of people I talk to, regardless of party or people who don’t really connect with a party, want this to be resolved,” he said. “This is one of those issues that for a very long time has hung out there and until this is resolved, you can’t move on to a lot of other issues.”
In 2010, before Lankford’s tenure in Congress, legislation similar to DACA passed the House but fell a vote shy in the Senate. No one from Oklahoma voted in favor of it.
U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington last month.