Washington: A divided Senate rejected a bipartisan plan today to help young “Dreamer” immigrants and parcel out money for the wall President Donald Trump wants with Mexico, as Republican leaders joined with the White House and scuttled what seemed the likeliest chance for sweeping immigration legislation this election year.
The vote came after the White House threatened to veto the measure and underscored that the issue, a hot button for both parties, remained as intractable as it’s been for years.
Even the focus on Dreamers, who polls show win wide public support, was not enough to overcome opposition by hard-line conservatives and liberal Democratic presidential hopefuls, neither of whom want to alienate their parties’ base voters.
The vote was 54-45 in favour, but that was short of the 60 that were needed for approval. Eight Republicans bucked their party and supported the measure while three Democrats abandoned their own leaders and opposed it.
The chamber planned to vote next on a wide-ranging plan by Trump that would also restrict legal immigration. It faced strong Democratic opposition and had virtually no chance for passage.
Earlier in the day, the White House used a written statement to label the proposal “dangerous policy that will harm the nation.” It singled out a provision that directs the government to prioritise enforcement efforts against immigrants who arrive illegally beginning in July.
In an ominous sign, party leaders opened the day’s debate by trading blame, as prospects grew that the chamber’s long-awaited debate on helping Dreamers and other hot-button immigration issues would end in stalemate.
Dreamers are young immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children who still lack permanent protections from deportation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., assailed Democrats for failing to offer “a single proposal that gives us a realistic chance to make law.” Instead, he said, Democrats should back Trump’s “extremely generous” proposal.
Trump would offer 1.8 million Dreamers a 10- to 12-year process for gaining citizenship, provide USD 25 billion to build his coveted US-Mexico border wall and restrict legal immigration. Dreamers are immigrants brought to the US illegally as children who risk deportation because they lack permanent authorisation to stay in the US.
Instead, Democratic leaders rallied behind a bipartisan plan that would also give 1.8 million Dreamers a chance for citizenship. But while it would provide the USD 25 billion Trump wants for his wall, it would dole it out over 10 years and lacks most of the limits Trump is seeking on legal immigration.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N. Y., said Trump has “stood in the way of every single proposal that has had a chance of becoming law.” He added, “The American people will blame President Trump and no one else for the failure to protect Dreamers.”
Overnight, the Department of Homeland Security said in an emailed statement that the bipartisan proposal would be “the end of immigration enforcement in America.