A bipartisan measure to offer legal protection for undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children is likely to have the backing of both U.S. senators from Maine.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said recently she supports the goal of the bill once she gets some clarification about what happens when someone who otherwise qualifies is charged with a misdemeanor. 

The proposal, offered by U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would grant temporary legal status for immigrants who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program started by President Barack Obama’s administration in June 2012.

The program gives most of those living in the country without proper authorization the right to stay for at least three more years if they arrived as children.

Collins said she supports the principle behind the bill because a lot of the people covered by the measure came to America as “very young” children who had no role in the decision to enter the country without the required authorization.

“There should be some sort of special treatment of people in that group,” Collins said.


The proposal has already garnered the backing of three other GOP senators: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada.

“I do not believe we should pull the rug out and push these young men and women, who came out of the shadows and registered with the federal government, back into the darkness,” Graham said when he introduced the bill. “Our legislation continues to provide legal status to them for three years as Congress seeks a permanent solution.”

Four Democrats in addition to Durbin are co-sponsoring, including the minority leader, Charles Schumer of New York. Also backing the bill are Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris of California and Bill Nelson of Florida.

Maine’s junior senator, independent Angus King, “supported provisions in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill that are similar to the legislation proposed by Senators Durbin and Graham,” said his spokesman, Scott Ogden.

King “continues to believe that we need a comprehensive solution to fix our broken immigration system, and, to that end, he looks forward to reviewing the details of their bill – but he certainly agrees that it makes no sense to punish these young men and women, who offer so much to this country, for a choice that was out of their hands to begin with,” Ogden said.

Collins said her only concern with the proposed legislation is that she’s not sure whether it has the right language related to those who have been charged with misdemeanors in the United States.


The measure doesn’t cover anyone who has been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor. Collins said she wants to know more about what sorts of misdemeanors are considered disqualifying.

The bill defines a serious misdemeanor as a federal, state or local offense unrelated to immigration status for which the maximum imprisonment term is more than five days and no more than one year.

It also bars those who have been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, driving under the influence or a crime that resulted in more than 90 days in custody.

Collins said she is eager to resolve the issue for those covered by the proposal.

As it is, she said, she’s worried they may be treated unfairly under President Donald Trump’s immigration-related orders.

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