Congress’ immigration disaster is taking a turn for the worse

  • Senators negotiating an immigration deal are more divided than ever on how to protect young unauthorised immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation.
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced Wednesday they reached a deal, but the White House and some Republicans quickly declared it unworkable.
  • Trump has threatened to veto any legislation that doesn’t meet each of his demands.

A freewheeling immigration debate in the Senate reached peak discord on Wednesday, as lawmakers rushed to meet an end-of-the-week deadline to find a permanent legislative solution resolving the fate of young unauthorised immigrants known as “Dreamers.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced in the morning they reached a deal. But several Republicans immediately threw cold water on it because it fell short of addressing the so-called “four pillars” of immigration reform President Donald Trump laid out weeks ago.

Trump has threatened to veto any legislation that doesn’t at once codify protections for Dreamers, fund a border wall, reduce family-sponsored immigration categories, and eliminate the diversity visa lottery.

The bipartisan deal would offer a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million Dreamers and allocate $US25 billion toward border security, according to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. It would also prohibit Dreamers from sponsoring green cards for their parents. But that’s not enough, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said.

“They don’t address two of the pillars that the president said he needed,” the Texas Republican told Politico.

The major sticking point in negotiations so far is related to legal immigration. Trump and his allies have demanded steep cuts to legal visa categories in exchange for protecting Dreamers, but Democrats and some moderate Republicans have refused to cave.

Even prominent advocates for Dreamers have indicated they want Democrats to walk away from any deal that pits Dreamers against future immigrants.

“If they’re going to demand the Stephen Miller wish list, Democrats should say no,” Greisa Martinez Rosas of United We Dream, a major group advocating for DACA recipients, told The Washington Post. She was referring to top Trump adviser Miller, who is believed to heavily influence the president with hardline immigration views.

“There’s a line for how much we will allow Trump and Miller to extract for our protection,” Rosas added.

‘Responsibility will fall entirely on the president’s shoulders’

In a press call with reporters on Wednesday, White House officials said Trump would reject any sort of “band-aid” proposal that failed to address each of his four pillars.

They argued that legal immigration cuts must accompany any efforts to legalise Dreamers, lest it result in “catastrophic surges of illegal immigration as well as massive increases in the size of the legalised population.”

Instead, Trump has thrown his support behind a proposal led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.

Grassley’s bill closely mirrors the White House’s own proposed immigration framework by fully funding Trump’s border wall and imposing steep cuts to the amount of legal immigrants allowed into the country.

White House officials later tried to blame Democrats for opposing Grassley’s bill, insisting during a press call that the proposal already contained “dramatic concessions” to Democrats.

For instance, the bill would legalise 1.8 million Dreamers instead of the original 690,000 currently protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump is phasing out.

The bill also wouldn’t make American employers use E-Verify, a program that detects whether employees are eligible to work in the US, the officials said.

But Grassley’s bill is unlikely to gain enough steam to pass the Senate.

Democrats have sensed that an immigration deal may not come together, and are preparing to pin the blame on Trump.

“This president not only created the problem, but seems to be against every solution that might pass because it isn’t 100% of what he wants,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor.

“If, at the end of the week, we are unable to find a bill that can pass … the responsibility will fall entirely on the president’s shoulders and those in this body who went along with him.”