Trump pushes immigration plan as Senate mulls narrower path

US President Donald Trump's signal that he would veto any immigration plan that does not address his top demands suggests a showdown is in store
AFP

Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday was on a collision course over immigration with US senators including some within his own party, as they struggled to reach a solution protecting 1.8 million immigrants from deportation.

With senators racing against a self-imposed deadline to strike a deal this week, Trump demanded the chamber rally around his proposal, which puts the “Dreamer” immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children on a pathway to citizenship — but severely curtails legal immigration.

Trump’s plan — which Senator Chuck Grassley and other Republicans released late Tuesday as a comprehensive bill — protects Dreamers but also would boost border security funding, abolish the diversity visa lottery and restrict family reunification, a policy Trump calls “chain migration.”

“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 –- that includes opposing any short-term ‘Band-Aid’ approach,” Trump said in a statement.

Lawmakers for months have struggled to craft a compromise after Trump scrapped a program that allowed Dreamers to stay, and gave Congress until March 5 to find a solution.

Some 690,000 Dreamers registered under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — plus 1.1 million others who were eligible but did not sign up — could begin to face deportation by that date if no fix is in place.

Top Republicans said Trump’s plan has the best shot at becoming law out of those being considered.

But Democrats have panned it, making it highly unlikely that it would garner the 60 votes necessary to advance in the 100-member chamber.

Republican Senate leaders promised a free-wheeling floor debate this week with both sides invited to introduce amendments on immigration, but the process has stalled.

A compromise was emerging from a bipartisan group of senators known as the Common Sense Coalition, which appeared set to release the text of its bill later Wednesday.

“We’re making real progress,” Republican Senator Susan Collins tweeted after hosting the coalition in her office.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said there was “growing consensus” around the plan, a narrower bill that would legalize 1.8 million Dreamers and provide $25 billion for border security including funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border, a long-held Trump priority.

But it would only make limited changes to family reunification, and leave the diversity lottery untouched because it is too “politically toxic,” Graham said.

Trump’s signal that he would veto anything that does not address his four demands suggests a showdown is in store, but Democrats stressed Trump would be to blame.

Americans “know this president not only created the problem, but seems to be against every solution that might pass because it isn’t 100 percent of what he wants,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said.

“If, at the end of the week, we are unable to find a bill that can pass… the responsibility will fall entirely on the president’s shoulders and those in this body who went along with him.”

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