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Immigration deal proves elusive for Republicans

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Republished with permission by Knowhere News

US Republican lawmakers failed to reach an immigration deal Thursday in a closed-door meeting called for that purpose despite growing pressure to find a solution for young people brought into the US illegally as children, often called “Dreamers.”

Lawmakers have battled for months over what protections to legislate for Dreamers and what other measures should be enacted along with them. Many centrist Republicans want to guarantee that Dreamers can become US citizens without decades-long delays, while conservatives fear that establishing a process for those immigrants would motivate others to enter the country illegally.

Complicating the immigration debate is President Donald Trump, who has named specific criteria for any immigration bill he would sign. Trump has proposed four pillars of any bill: offering a way for up to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants to get US citizenship; boosting border security and building the president’s proposed border wall; ending the diversity visa “lottery” system; and limiting family visa sponsorships.

Trump himself already attempted to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting the Dreamers, but multiple court decisions have blocked his action.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said the meeting Thursday had been “productive” but he did not announce any breakthrough between conservatives who oppose citizenship and GOP moderates working with Democrats to give Dreamers permanent legal protection.

One issue debated at the meeting was a proposed vote for a “discharge” petition, which was at that time only three votes shy of the 218 needed to bypass House leadership and force votes on the several competing immigration proposals.

Several lawmakers at Thursday’s meeting who had planned to sign the petition and put it over the 218 threshold signaled they would wait for a few more days before doing so, to allow Ryan and others to craft a possible compromise, said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).

Ryan and other Republican leaders have tried to fashion their own deal and block the petition effort, which they fear could expose vulnerable Republicans to divisive votes on immigration ahead of November elections that could determine control of the House.

Ryan has said the petition would give control of the House floor to Democrats. If the petition does get the requisite signatures by June 12, the debate over those proposals could hit the House floor as soon as June 25.

Meanwhile, centrist Republicans are rallying around one compromise proposal. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), said that under an offer from the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, Dreamers could get a visa that would allow them to stay in the US for eight years. Denham expressed uncertainty over what would follow that, but said that supporters characterize the proposal as a bridge from illegal status to the legal immigration system – which seems to imply a pathway to staying in the US permanently.

Some conservatives categorically oppose any “special” process for Dreamers to get legal status and reacted negatively to Denham’s description of the proposal.

Later, the Freedom Caucus tweeted that it “has not made an offer” but is engaging in discussions about both border security and how to handle the Dreamers.

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