US Republican lawmakers try to rescue immigration talks to protect ‘Dreamers’
Members of the majority party disagree on efforts to help immigrants brought to the US as children
Negotiations in the US House of Representatives on immigration legislation were on the verge of collapse on Tuesday as Republicans fought over how much protection to give undocumented “Dreamer” immigrants.
Heated debates took place between House Republican leaders and warring centrist and conservative lawmakers in the party that controls both chambers of Congress.
Some House Republican aides portrayed the closed-door session as crucial amid the deadlock. Failure to devise a compromise could result in renegade centrists forcing votes on the House floor on a bill that could pass with mostly Democratic support.
Even if House Speaker Paul Ryan manages to write a compromise bill toughening US border security and ending the threat of deportation for Dreamers – who were brought into the United States as children – his solution could be rebuffed by Democrats who are needed to enact any immigration bill.
House aides familiar with this months-long effort to dislodge immigration legislation from a conservative blockade acknowledged that Democrats were not part of the consultations.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte has been pushing legislation to continue Dreamers’ temporary legal status, but without any prospect for US citizenship.
Even some prominent Republicans viewed Ryan’s gambit sceptically.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake – a central figure in efforts to protect Dreamer youths now that US President Donald Trump wants to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme that temporarily protects them from deportation – scoffed at the idea of the House moving ahead with a Republican-only bill.
He added, “If it’s anything like what was part of the Goodlatte bill, that’s just not going to fly.”
Embraced by the White House, the measure would reduce the amount of legal immigration and prevent US citizens from sponsoring some relatives living abroad who want to relocate to the United States.
A similar measure failed in the Senate in February.
In recent months, the Trump administration has stepped up a practice of separating immigrant children and parents who cross US borders without visas and of holding them in detention centres.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, pledged to fight for legislation she introduced last week to end the practice.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Feinstein acknowledged that she had neither any Republican backers or a promise from the Republican committee chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, to hold hearings on the measure.
“Children are terrified, parents are heartbroken and families are being destroyed,” Feinstein said.