Back to square one.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday soundly defeated a bill backed by House GOP leaders that would have offered a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants brought to America as children.
The legislation, which had the support of President Donald Trump, also would have provided $25 billion for construction of a wall along the southwest border, curtailed family-sponsored immigration, reformed the asylum process, and provided additional resources for border security.
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But Democrats unanimously opposed it, and 112 Republicans also voted “no.” The final tally was 301-121.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), whose own proposal went down to defeat last week, argued during debate Wednesday that the bill offered by House leaders would protect illegal immigrants whose parents brought them to the United States as children while taking steps to prevent the next wave of illegal immigration.
“The American people want a holistic approach to reforming immigration laws, that focuses on enforcement first before legalization,” he said.
The vote caps a frustrating year for advocates on both sides of the immigration divide. Earlier in the year, the Senate rejected four separate proposals to offer protections to illegal immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created by executive action during the previous administration.
That program, which has been challenged in the courts, gives renewable work permits and protection from deportation to certain illegal immigrants who came to America as children.
Democrats long have advocated a vote on a “clean” amnesty bill similar to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. But Republicans have balked at amnesty without broader reforms.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) said during Wednesday’s debate that the bill backed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been falsely described as a compromise.
“Don’t let them fool you. This bill cuts legal immigration by 40 percent,” he said. “This bill cancels diversity green cards. This bill eliminates most family reunification. And finally, this bill hurts asylum seekers. This bill is anything but a compromise, is anything but fair, and is certainly not pro-family.”
Other Democrats complained that it did not address the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy of filing criminal charges against first-time border crossers. That resulted in the separation of parents caught entering illegally from children who were with them. Trump reversed the policy last week, and a federal judge on Tuesday ordered reunification, but that did not stop Democrats from piling on.
“We must call for an end of state-sponsored child abuse, because that’s what this policy is,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said she agrees that families should not be separated at the border.
“But I think as we do that, we have to remember the larger issues, including the security of the nation,” he said.
Hard-liners who opposed amnesty in any form cheered Wednesday’s vote. William Gheen, founder of the Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee (ALIPAC), said Trump’s support for the bill represents a betrayal.
“It would have replaced 2.2 million of his own voters,” he said.
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That is a reference to an estimate by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) of how many illegal immigrants ultimately might have become citizens under the bill.
Gheen faulted Washington-based low-immigration advocates who signed onto the less-generous legislation sponsored by Goodlatte.
“The political theater that unfolded before us was a well-orchestrated trap,” he said.