GOP sells im­mi­gra­tion bills, with Trump’s bless­ing

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Alan Fram and Lisa Mascaro

WASH­ING­TON» Repub­li­can lead­ers be­gan the prob­lem­atic task of find­ing sup­port for an im­mi­gra­tion com­pro­mise Wed­nes­day, telling law­mak­ers that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was back­ing the still-evolv­ing bill. But cracks within the party were on full dis­play and it seemed that push­ing the mea­sure through the House next week would be a chal­lenge.

“If it was a res­o­lu­tion on ap­ple pie, you’re go­ing to lose some votes, some Repub­li­can votes,” said U.S. Rep. Ma- rio Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

A day af­ter top Repub­li­cans said the House would vote next week on two com­pet­ing im­mi­gra­tion mea­sures, it was widely as­sumed that a hard-right mea­sure would lose. That bill would give young “Dreamer” im­mi­grants just lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­main in the U.S. while im­pos­ing tough re­stric­tions on le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and bol­ster­ing border se­cu­rity.

GOP lead­ers, ne­go­ti­at­ing with quar­rel­ing mod­er­ates and con­ser­va­tives, were still writing the sec­ond bill. Repub­li­cans said it would con­tain a way for Dream­ers to qual­ify for per­ma­nent and po­ten­tially be­come cit­i­zens, while ac­cept­ing con­ser­va­tives’ de­mands to fi­nance Trump’s pro­posed border wall with Mex­ico and re­stric­tions on le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

With Repub­li­cans bat­tling to keep their House ma­jor­ity in Novem­ber’s elec­tions, merely stag­ing the im­mi­gra­tion votes, win or lose, achieves some po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives. The plan helped party lead­ers block un­happy mod­er­ates try­ing to force the House to con­sider im­mi­gra­tion bills con­sid­ered too lib­eral by many Repub­li­cans, and will let law­mak­ers as­sert that they tried ad­dress­ing the is­sue.

If both bills lose, “at least you know where every­one stands,” said Rep. War­ren Davidson, R-Ohio, a mem­ber of the hard-right House Free­dom Cau­cus.

Democrats seemed likely to solidly op­pose both pack­ages. A day af­ter House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats would fight any mea­sure ad­vanc­ing Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, the leader of the Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus said her group’s goal was to have “zero Demo­cratic sup­port” for the GOP bills.

Rep. Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham, D-N.M., said the Repub­li­can mea­sures “are gores­i­dence ing to make it clearer than ever that Dream­ers are pawns for a wall. That is go­ing to be a very dif­fi­cult thing to de­fend” in the Novem­ber elec­tions, she said.

The bills rep­re­sent the GOP’s at­tempt to ad­dress Dream­ers, young im­mi­grants brought to the U.S. il­le­gally as chil­dren. Trump last year ter­mi­nated the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, or DACA, which has tem­po­rar­ily shielded hun­dreds of thou­sands of them from de­por­ta­tion. Fed­eral courts have kept the pro­gram func­tion­ing, for now.

Even if the com­pro­mise mea­sure passed the House, its fate in the Se­nate was in doubt. Democrats there have enough votes to scut­tle any bill.

Trump’s back­ing — es­pe­cially if he an­nounced it pub­licly — could help nail down some sup­port. But GOP “no” votes seemed likely, in­clud­ing by some con­ser­va­tives du­bi­ous about grant­ing what they con­sider amnesty to peo­ple in the U.S. il­le­gally.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., a Free­dom Cau­cus mem­ber, said it was “a pretty big com­pro­mise” for him to sup­port the con­ser­va­tive im­mi­gra­tion bill be­cause he doesn’t con­sider it re­stric­tive enough.

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