Border security debate back on
House GOP leaders have reopened negotiations over the fate of young undocumented immigrants.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and House Republican leaders have reopened negotiations over the fate of young undocumented immigrants and border security, resurrecting the politically explosive issue of immigration that has stymied the GOP.
In a days-long uprising, GOP moderates fearful of continued inaction ahead of the midterm elections employed a rarely used legislative maneuver to force Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and White House officials back to the negotiating table.
The overall efforts on Thursday have focused on a path to permanent residency for the hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” left in limbo after Trump canceled the program last year. Crucial to the discussions are ways to construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall that Trump promised repeatedly in the 2016 campaign.
No single issue is more politically fraught and vexing for Republicans than immigration, and the latest flash point is exposing the divisions. Trump capitalized on fears about immigrants exploiting the nation’s borders to win the presidency and a hard-line stance is the cornerstone of his brand.
This week, the president clamored to tighten laws to keep “animal” gang members out of the country, and he has threatened to spark a government shutdown barely a month before the election if the border wall isn’t funded.
“A vote for a Democrat in November is a vote for open borders and crime,” he said at a rally last month in Michigan.
But taking a vote on restrictive immigration policies could hand political ammunition to rivals of many GOP incumbents in swing districts whose success is critical to retaining the party’s House majority.
Ryan, who has announced plans to retire at the end of his term, said Thursday that his goal is legislation acceptable to Trump, Republicans and some Democrats, a type of compromise that has been rare in the GOP-led House.
“The question is, could we have a bill that has a vast majority of Republicans that some Democrats would support? What’s the combination?” Ryan said
That’s a dilemma that Republicans had hoped they could avoid. In February, the Supreme Court moved to stay Trump’s cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields more than a half-million young immigrants from deportation. By removing an imminent deadline, that stalled an already precarious effort to pass a legislative DACA fix.
But a group of renegade Republican moderates are unwilling to wait. Twenty have signed a “discharge” petition that would set up a series of votes on competing immigration bills, including at least one that could pass with mostly Democratic votes. With nearly every Democrat expected to join the petition, that is enough Republicans to put it within arm’s reach of success.
Ryan and other Republican leaders have responded by mounting a full-court press to block the effort which culminated Thursday in a new and frantic effort to fashion a more conservative bill that could win the support of most Republicans and potentially some Democrats.
“No one has identified that unicorn yet,” said one senior Republican aide of the effort to find a workable compromise.