WASHINGTON – The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives voted down a hard-line immigration bill on Thursday while putting off until next week consideration of a milder proposal pushed by GOP centrists.
The activity in Congress coincided with President Donald Trump’s efforts to put an end to the separation of immigrant families that followed his administration’s adoption of a “zero tolerance” policy mandating criminal charges against people who illegally cross the southern border.
Zero tolerance has so far resulted in the separation of more than 2,000 children from their parents, sparking an outcry that prompted the president to promise an end to the practice.
Trump insists that only Congress can resolve the problem, though nothing in the law requires criminal prosecution of undocumented immigrants.
The Democratic minority in the legislature has put forward several measures to address the family separation issue, but the White House and congressional Republicans say that any bill must include action to fortify the border and reduce legal immigration.
And Trump continues to demand funding for the wall he wants to build on the US-Mexico border
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that he saw no point in having members vote on bills sure to be vetoed by Trump.
The No. 2 Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, said that delaying the vote on the proposal from GOP moderates was intended to allow more time to garner support for the bill.
The draft set to be considered next week would provide a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” and end family separation at the border.
As the same time, the proposal would appropriate $25 billion for construction of the border wall and limit legal immigration.
The more hard-line bill, which would have funded the border wall, eliminated the visa lottery, cut back on family-unification visas, and offered Dreamers legal residence but not citizenship, was defeated Thursday by a vote of 231-193.
The administration, meanwhile, filed a motion Thursday with a federal district court in California asking for modification of a 1997 accord between the government and immigrants rights groups that limited to 20 days the length of time that migrant children can be detained.
Trump’s team sees the Flores Settlement, as the agreement is known, as an obstacle to its program to end family separation, which includes the idea of keeping the kids together with their parents in detention centers.