WASHINGTON: The Senate has left hundreds of thousands of “Dreamer” immigrants in limbo, rejecting rival plans that would have spared them from deportation and strengthened the nation’s border security.
Senators on Thursday dealt President Donald Trump an especially galling defeat as more than a quarter of fellow Republicans abandoned him on an issue that helped propel him to the White House.
Also defeated on Thursday was a plan by a bipartisan group of senators who offered a compromise that would have shielded the young immigrants and financed Trump’s demands for money to build his border wall, though more gradually than he wants. Eight Republicans joined most Democrats in backing that plan, but it fell short after the White House threatened a veto and GOP leaders opposed it.
The day’s votes, in which four separate proposals were defeated, illustrated anew Congress’ steep challenge in striking a deal on an issue that’s proven intractable for years and on which each party’s most fervent supporters refuse to budge. The outcome suggested there may be no permanent solution soon to help the young immigrants, who were brought to the US as children, despite their sky-high support in public polling.
The Senate votes left the young immigrants facing a March 5 deadline that Trump has given Congress for restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that he annulled last year. Federal courts have blocked him temporarily from dismantling the Obama-era initiative, but without congressional action, the immigrants will face growing risks of deportation as their protections expire.
“Dreamers” are immigrants who were brought to the US as children and now risk deportation because they lack permanent authorization to stay. DACA gives them the ability to live and work in the US for two-year periods that can be renewed.
“It looks like demagogues on the left and the right win again on immigration,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, who helped craft the bipartisan package but also backed Trump’s plan. He added, “The only way forward is for President Trump to grab the reins and lead us to a solution.”
That scenario wasn’t in sight Thursday. The White House trashed the bipartisan proposal as “a dangerous policy that will harm the nation”, denouncing a provision directing the government to prioritize enforcement efforts against immigrants who arrive illegally — beginning in July. Trump proved unwilling to fold on his demands for a tougher bill, reflecting the hard-line immigration stance that fueled his presidential run.
After the Senate rejected all four proposals on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Democrats for failing to accept what he said was a “generous” offer from Trump.
“They turned away from a golden opportunity to solve the issue,” said McConnell. He expressed openness to considering a future compromise but said, “For that to happen, Democrats will need to take a second look” at Trump’s demands.
Trump had dangled a chance for citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants, meeting a top Democratic demand. But that plan also included $25 billion to build his border wall with Mexico and enact other border security measures, tighter curbs on relatives whom legal immigrants could sponsor for citizenship and an end to a visa lottery that encourages immigration from diverse nations.