White House to press for tough immigration laws, border wall
The White House is racing to finish a sweeping new immigration plan focused on enforcement that could be introduced before Democrats take control of the House. It would include funding for the border wall, restrictions on asylum and cuts to legal immigration, according to four people familiar with the plans.
But the plan is already receiving pushback from factions within the West Wing who are urging the president to agree to a more moderate plan that would limit cuts to legal immigration and protect young immigrants who came to the United States as children.
“There is a schism within the White House over this issue,” said Jessica Vaughn, a former State Department foreign service officer and director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. “There are some folks who think it’s important to push those provisions now under the guise of merit-based immigration reform. And others who are opposed to that. They want the emphasis to be on enforcement.”
This latest enforcement proposal would partially serve as a permanent legislative change to measures President Donald Trump took Thursday to confront the caravan of migrants nearing the U.S. by invoking national security powers used to implement last year’s “travel ban” to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups swiftly sued in federal court in Northern California to block the regulations, arguing the measures were illegal, the Associated Press reported.
The plans are setting up a new battle within the Republican Party between immigration hardliners, led by White House adviser Stephen Miller, who wants to rewrite the U.S. legal immigration system, and more centrist Republicans and business leaders who want to protect the young immigrants, known as Dreamers, and provide greater access to foreign workers.
Democrats won control of the House on Tuesday. That means Trump will be working with a divided Congress come January so this is seen as a last-ditch effort to craft a new immigration package more to his and other Republicans’ liking. But any measure will be difficult to pass, especially one focused on enforcement, when Congress is also trying to avoid a government shutdown over changes in a spending bill and trying to push through other difficult measures such as a sweeping farm bill.
“I think the lame-duck session of Congress is a great opportunity to pass immigration reform so I may still have some important work to do when I get back,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, minutes after he conceded his re-election bid on Tuesday. “I sure hope we have a chance. This would be the best time to do it especially because we can probably expect more gridlock or even worse gridlock in the next Congress.”
Congress will be in session for 12 work days between now and its holiday break – the so-called lame-duck session – and a new Congress is sworn in in January. In that time, it has to pass a spending bill before Dec. 7 or the government will have to shut down with no funding.
Earler this year, Trump warned that a “good shutdown” may be necessary to force Democrats to agree to spend more than $20 billion on a border wall. But he appeared to back away from those threats this week after seeing the election results.
Trump told a news conference Wednesday he’s “not necessarily” committed to a shutdown and indicated Democrats may be willing to work with him.
“I speak to Democrats all the time and they agree that a wall is necessary,” Trump said. “We want to build the whole wall at one time, not in chunks.”
Democrats are unlikely to be in a negotiating mood during the lameduck session, given their pickup of 30 seats, so far, in Tuesday’s midterms.
Trump desperately wants to gain funding for his wall in order to fulfill his signature campaign promise as he looks toward 2020.
A group of Central American migrants resume their journey north on Friday after leaving a temporary shelter.