Senators Prepare for Messaging and Uncertainty from Immigration Debate
The Senate is preparing to launch what is expected to be a bruising and at-times bitterly partisan deliberation on the future of a program that covers the Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
The chamber will take the first step Monday to proceed to a floor debate on how to address the pending expiration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which protects Dreamers from deportation. The senate members have engaged for weeks in a hodgepodge of ad hoc working groups to try to develop some sort of consensus heading into the floor action.
Lawmakers who have taken an active role in those groups could introduce their own proposals. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has pledged to launch the DACA debate on a clean playing field: an unrelated bill that has no underlying immigration policy in it. While members praised the “neutral” approach, some Republicans criticized the decision not to use a base bill that reflects more conservative priorities.
Trump Support Vital as Congress Tackles Immigration Issue
The Senate begins a rare, open-ended debate on immigration and the fate of the Dreamer immigrants on Monday, and Republican senators say they’ll introduce President Donald Trump’s plan. Though his proposal has no chance of passage, Trump may be the most influential voice in the conversation.
If the aim is to pass a legislative solution, Trump will be a crucial and, at times, complicating player. Yet his ultimate support will be vital if Congress is to overcome election-year pressures against compromise. No Senate deal is likely to see the light of day in the more conservative House without the president’s blessing and promise to sell compromise to his hardline base.
Senate GOP, Dem Leaders Say It’s Time for Immigration Deal
The Senate’s two top leaders put on a show of comradery Monday as their chamber launched its immigration debate, but also laid down markers underscoring how hard it will be to reach a deal that can move through Congress.
“We really do get along, despite what you read in the press,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, at a previously scheduled appearance alongside his counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, at the University of Louisville
But just days after the two leaders brokered a bipartisan $400 billion budget agreement and helped shepherd it into law, both men made clear that an immigration agreement will be tough. McConnell said “Now’s the time to back up the talk with the hard work of finding a solution,” while Democrats have called for “swift action” on immigration.
Democrats Lose Immigration Clout but May Gain an Election Issue
Congressional Democrats who provided needed votes to reopen the government after Friday’s brief shutdown now head into a fight over the intractable issue of immigration with their clout to help young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers clipped significantly.
In the Senate, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer was able to set a price for that concession. The chamber opens an immigration debate on Monday that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised would start with a blank slate; he also cautioned that no one can guess whether the senators will be able to produce something President Donald Trump would sign.
The path ahead is even less certain in the House, where conservatives aren’t giving any ground. Speaker Paul Ryan would commit only to considering legislation that would meet Trump’s approval.
Trump Budget Wants Billions More for Border Wall, Immigration Agents and Judges
President Trump’s 2019 budget request captures all the hallmarks of his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, said efforts being an expanded border wall to stop undocumented immigrants, more immigration agents to arrest them, and more immigration judges to deport them.
Most other federal agencies would see their funding cut in the 2019 budget, some by as much as 26%, but the Department of Homeland Security would receive $47.5 billion, a 7.8% increase over the 2018 budget.
Trump wrote that the increase reflects his administration’s “serious and ongoing commitment” to secure the border and use increased enforcement to “make our immigration system work for Americans.”
But critics of his immigration approach say Trump’s budget will only make life more difficult for undocumented immigrants who don’t have a criminal record but may still end up getting deported.
Heller, Facing Primary Challenge in Nevada, Leans Toward Backing Trump On Immigration
Sen. Dean Heller said on Monday that “overall” he was inclined to support President Donald Trump’s immigration framework, the latest sign that the vulnerable incumbent is siding with the president in the legislative trenches of Congress.
While the Nevada Republican did not outright say he would vote for the president’s proposal, he said in an interview that it was his “starting point” going into the immigration debate in the Senate.
Hospital Reverses Policy About Denying Illegal Immigrant Liver Transplant After ACLU Pressure
An Oregon hospital contacted an illegal immigrant on Tuesday and told her she could not be on the liver transplant list. The hospital stated it “requires proof of lawful presence for transplant services.” Now the hospital has done an about-face after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others applied public pressure.
The legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Mat dos Santos, responded to the woman’s receipt of the letter from Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) by calling the policy “cruel and inhumane.”
The ACLU in Oregon started a petition drive, Tweeting, “TAKE ACTION! Add your name to the petition asking all Oregon hospitals to stop denying people organ transplants based on their immigration status.” Not stopping there, the Oregon ACLU is now pushing a petition drive “to [ask] all Oregon hospitals to change any policies denying people organ transplants based on their immigration status.”
An Immigrant Who Went to Police for Help Was Detained and Handed Over to Immigration Officials
A Washington police department has come under fire after turning an immigrant who called police for help over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The Tukwila Police Department said officers were not acting “with malice” when they arrested the man after they mistook an administrative warrant issued by ICE for a judicial warrant.
The man had called police with concerns over a “suspicious person” trespassing onto his property at around 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, police said in a Facebook post. “As with every incident, we establish the identity of those involved. During our normal process of verifying the identities, an outstanding warrant issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was discovered,” the department said.
Tukwila Police said the man “proactively acknowledged” that he had a warrant and was allowed by officers to contact a lawyer and call a friend before officers transferred him to ICE agents, who took him into custody.
ICE Keeps Rounding Up “Non-Criminal” Immigrants
In the 2017 fiscal year, which ended last October, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made 37,734 “non-criminal” arrests. That’s more than double the total from the previous year under the Obama administration, which prioritized the immigration arrests of people convicted of serious crimes. The strategy is part of Trump’s goal of taking “the shackles off” immigration enforcement.
While immigration hard-liners are thrilled with Trump’s approach, critics have called the arrests indiscriminate and inhumane.
Trump administration officials have maintained that ICE will continue Obama’s priority of going after criminals first, but the agency’s acting director, Thomas Homan, has explicitly said he interprets that mission as going after everyone. “The president has made it clear in his executive orders: There’s no population off the table,” Homan said in December.