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US immigration

US House defeats immigration bill and postpones vote on compromise measure; first lady Melania Trump visits child detention facility

Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, went on a damage-control mission for her husband with a visit to a border detention facility for children

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 1:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 2:47am

The US House of Representatives on Thursday defeated a Republican bill designed to significantly reduce visas for legal immigration and to temporarily protect illegal “Dreamer” youths from deportation, but not offer them a path to permanent legal residency.

The House defeated the measure by a vote of 231-193 as a group of Republicans joined Democrats to sink the plan.

The House had been scheduled to vote on a second immigration bill on Thursday that could appeal to more Republicans, but party leaders postponed consideration of that measure until Friday as they sought to build more support, according to a senior House Republican aide.

The situation underscored continued congressional dysfunction, particularly in overhauling the nation’s immigration system, and the struggle to unite the conservative and more moderate wings of the Republican Party on the issue.

Several Republican aides and lawmakers said Trump undermined prospects for success in the House on Thursday with a morning tweet that cast doubt on whether any Republican immigration legislation could pass the Senate.

The president suggested that Senate Democrats would use the chamber’s filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes for legislation to advance, to scuttle any bill that emerged from the House.

“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct (which they feel is good for them in the Mid-Terms),” Trump said. “Republicans must get rid of the stupid Filibuster Rule-it is killing you!”

Republican aides involved in trying to pass the bills said Trump’s tweet would only harm efforts to corral votes.

The White House has made a last-minute push to pass legislation amid the brewing border crisis prompted by the family separations that resulted on the US-Mexico border from Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an order to stop the separations.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the administration would stop prosecuting migrant parents who cross the border illegally with children until immigration authorities have the resources that would allow them to be held in custody, citing a senior US Customs and Border Protection official.

But a spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice said the report was inaccurate. Spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said there had been no change to the “zero tolerance” policy.

The US first lady, Melania Trump, went on a damage-control mission for her husband on Thursday with a visit to a border detention facility where children separated from their parents were being held.

The first lady, whose pressure was a factor in Trump’s decision to sign an executive order on Wednesday keeping immigrant children together with their detained parents, left the White House quietly on Thursday morning and flew to Texas for the visit.

“Ivanka feels very strongly, my wife feels very strongly about it, I feel very strongly about it. I think anybody with a heart would feel very strongly about it. We don’t like to see families separated,” Trump said Wednesday, referring to his daughter Ivanka.

The president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have all appeared on Capitol Hill this week to urge makers to pass immigration legislation. But they did not specifically urged passage of a specific bill.

The compromise measure would provide US$25 billion for Trump’s long-sought border wall, offer a pathway to citizenship to young undocumented immigrants and keep migrant families together.

The competing, hard-line bill by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, was the one defeated on Thursday. It would not have guaranteed Dreamers a path to permanent legal residency and included controversial enforcement measures such as the mandatory use of a worker verification programme.

Additional reporting by Associated Press