Im­mi­gra­tion bill puts Ryan in tight spot

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Im­mi­gra­tion is “the defin­ing mo­ment for this speaker. If he gets it wrong, it will have con­se­quences for him, but it will also have con­se­quences for the rest of the Repub­li­can Party.” Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., House Free­dom Cau­cus Chair

WASH­ING­TON – House Speaker Paul Ryan found him­self in a tight po­lit­i­cal spot Wed­nes­day as Repub­li­can lead­ers an­nounced plans to push an im­mi­gra­tion bill that ap­peals to the most con­ser­va­tive wing of his party but will alien­ate mod­er­ates.

Ryan and other GOP lead­ers said Wed­nes­day they planned to move ahead with leg­is­la­tion that would slash le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and give only tem­po­rary le­gal pro­tec­tions for the DREAM­ers, among other pro­vi­sions. Pres­i­dent Trump en­dorsed that bill Wed­nes­day — but he also en­dorsed a ri­val Se­nate pro­posal that doesn’t go as far.

The com­pet­ing and con­flict­ing pres­sures on Ryan be­came clear mo­ments af­ter the Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can out­lined the GOP im­mi­gra­tion strat­egy.

Im­mi­gra­tion is “the defin­ing mo­ment for this speaker,” House Free­dom Cau­cus Chair Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., said Wed­nes­day. “If he gets it wrong, it will have con­se­quences for him, but it will also have con­se­quences for the rest of the Repub­li­can Party.”

That warn­ing shot from Mead­ows — who helped push Ryan’s pre­de­ces­sor, John Boehner, into re­tire­ment — high­lights how ex­plo­sive the loom­ing House de­bate will be for Repub­li­cans. The Se­nate is de­bat­ing im­mi­gra­tion, and it’s un­likely to pass leg­is­la­tion that would dra­mat­i­cally re­strict le­gal im­mi­gra­tion or ini­ti­ate a wave of de­por­ta­tions.

Ryan’s spokes­woman did not re­spond to ques­tions about Mead­ows’ warn­ings.

Mead­ows and other con­ser­va­tives made it clear they will ac­cept noth­ing short of the hard-line House im­mi­gra­tion bill in­tro­duced by Rep. Bob Good­latte, R-Va., chair­man of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, and Rep. Michael Mc­Caul, R-Texas, chair­man of the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee.

That pro­posal would cut le­gal im­mi­gra­tion by at least 25% and crack down on “sanc­tu­ary ci­ties” that do not fully co­op­er­ate with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment ef­forts. It would re­quire em­ploy­ers to use the E-Ver­ify sys­tem to check the im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of job ap­pli­cants; pro­vide fund­ing to hire 10,000 fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents; and cut at least 200,000 green cards a year given to foreigners.

In ex­change for those new re­stric­tions, it would grant tem­po­rary le­gal sta­tus to fewer than 800,000 DREAM­ers — re­quir­ing them to re­new their pro­tec­tions ev­ery three years — but no op­por­tu­nity to earn cit­i­zen­ship.

“If we get this bill passed through the House and it ul­ti­mately gets to the pres­i­dent’s desk, he would sign that bill,” House Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Wed­nes­day. “We are fi­nally at least work­ing on a way to come to­gether to ad­dress this prob­lem.”

Trump gave a thumbs up to the Good­latte-Mc­Caul bill Wed­nes­day. It in­cludes en­force­ment mea­sures beyond the pri­or­i­ties the pres­i­dent out­lined.

“I re­main en­cour­aged by de­vel­op­ments in the House to­ward ad­vanc­ing leg­is­la­tion from Chair­men Good­latte and Mc­Caul,” Trump said.

The bill is a non-starter in the Se­nate, and it’s not even clear whether it could pass the House. Democrats op­pose it — as do some Repub­li­can mod­er­ates.

Trump also en­dorsed a less re­stric­tive im­mi­gra­tion bill Wed­nes­day, spon­sored by Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley, R-Iowa, that would com­mit bil­lions of dol­lars to bor­der se­cu­rity, limit fam­ily-based mi­gra­tion and pro­vide a path to cit­i­zen­ship to about 1.8 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented “DREAM­ers” brought to the coun­try as chil­dren.

The DREAMer is­sue was a key fac­tor in a three-day gov­ern­ment shut­down in Jan­u­ary.

Grass­ley’s bill would au­tho­rize $25 bil­lion to­ward com­ple­tion of a 10-year bor­der se­cu­rity plan, in­clud­ing a wall be­tween the USA and Mex­ico. It would pro­vide for ad­di­tional per­son­nel for bor­der con­trol; limit fam­ily-based im­mi­gra­tion to the nu­clear fam­ily; and phase out the visa lot­tery sys­tem. The Grass­ley bill would pro­vide a 12-year path to cit­i­zen­ship for the DREAM­ers who have been al­lowed to stay in the USA un­der the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram.

In his state­ment Wed­nes­day, Trump said, “The Grass­ley bill ac­com­plishes the four pil­lars of the White House Frame­work: a last­ing so­lu­tion on DACA, end­ing chain mi­gra­tion, can­celling the visa lot­tery, and se­cur­ing the bor­der through build­ing the wall and clos­ing le­gal loop­holes. I am ask­ing all sen­a­tors, in both par­ties, to sup­port the Grass­ley bill and to op­pose any leg­is­la­tion that fails to ful­fill these four pil­lars.”

The Grass­ley bill would go fur­ther than what Trump has out­lined. It would al­low for quicker de­por­ta­tions of peo­ple caught en­ter­ing the coun­try and peo­ple who over­stay their visas.

Mead­ows and oth­ers said the Grass­ley mea­sure isn’t tough enough.

Mead­ows said there are no ac­tive con­ver­sa­tions about re­plac­ing Ryan as speaker, but there were dis­cus­sions about how Repub­li­can lead­er­ship needed to push harder to get to the re­quired 218 votes to pass the Good­latte-Mc­Caul bill. Con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists ham­mered Repub­li­cans and the pres­i­dent for sup­port­ing the Grass­ley bill.

“Peo­ple who sup­ported Trump from the be­gin­ning, they’re up­set, they feel be­trayed, and they don’t feel like Pres­i­dent Trump is keep­ing his prom­ise on this par­tic­u­lar is­sue,” said Jenny Beth Martin, who heads Tea Party Pa­tri­ots, a grass-roots con­ser­va­tive group.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is mov­ing ahead on an im­mi­gra­tion bill. JAC­QUE­LYN MARTIN/AP

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