US Senate votes down series of immigration reforms

Entire process left up in the air after spectacular failure to reach consensus on ‘Dreamer’ immigrants

Washington: The US Senate on Thursday shot down a series of immigration reform proposals including one championed by President Donald Trump, dashing hopes that Congress will soon decide on the fate of hundreds of thousands of young migrants brought to the country illegally as children.


The Republican-controlled Senate had given itself until the end of the week to reach a deal on putting 1.8 million “Dreamer” immigrants on a path to citizenship, boosting border security, and potentially tightening up existing regulations on legal immigration.

Their efforts failed spectacularly, leaving the entire process up in the air.

Lawmakers were heading home to their districts to reassess, with just weeks to go before a March 5 deadline, after which thousands could be at risk of deportation.

All four proposals put forward on Thursday failed, including a bipartisan deal that had appeared to gain traction — but ultimately fell six votes short of the 60 needed to advance legislation in the 100-member chamber.

That plan was blasted by Trump as a “total catastrophe” because his administration said it would dramatically reduce immigration enforcement.

The White House piled on, calling the bipartisan plan “massively reckless” and brandishing the threat of a presidential veto.

Trump instead pushed his own plan, which would also resolve the legal status of the 1.8 million immigrants and provide $25 billion for border security, including funding his much-cherished border wall, while dramatically curtailing legal immigration by ending a diversity visa lottery and limiting family reunification.

But the Senate roundly rejected that package by a 60-39 vote, sending the White House a message that many in Trump’s own party were unhappy with the president’s involvement in the process.

“It looks like demagogues on the left and the right win again on immigration,” Senate Republican Lindsey Graham said after the vote.

“This vote is proof that President Trump’s plan will never become law,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said in a terse statement.

“If he would stop torpedoing bipartisan efforts, a good bill would pass.”

Path for ‘Dreamers’?

The fate of the Dreamers has been uncertain since Trump scrapped the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last September and gave Congress six months to legislate a solution.

Some 690,000 Dreamers who registered under DACA — plus 1.1 million others who were eligible but did not sign up — could begin to face deportation beginning March 5 if no deal is reached.

An administration official said that despite pending court cases, he did not believe there was legal authority for the administration to extend the deadline.

Senate Republican leaders had favoured Trump’s proposal, but 16 Senate centrists unveiled a bipartisan approach that seemed to gain support.

Impasse

The bipartisan effort would have only made limited changes to family reunification, and would leave the diversity lottery untouched.

Trump has argued that extremists have abused the two programs in order to enter the country and kill Americans.

But Democrats panned Trump’s effort from the moment he unveiled it.

Even if it had passed the Senate, the bipartisan plan would have had a steep hill to climb in the House of Representatives, where several conservatives are opposed to any measure that gives “amnesty” to illegal immigrants.

With the Senate’s failure, the Republican-led House is likely to push for a vote on a hardline conservative immigration bill circulating in the chamber.

“If the House is going to wait for 60 senators to figure out an immigration bill first, we might as well all go home and take a nap,” House Republican Mark Meadows said on Twitter.

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