Senate Fails to Advance Immigration Bills, Leaving DACA in Doubt

The U.S. Senate last Thursday failed to advance four immigration bills brought to the floor for a vote, leaving a solution for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in serious doubt, Vox reported.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-TN) allowed debate on several possible fixes for those covered under DACA, which provides temporary protection against deportation as well as work authorization to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Every measure came up short of the 60 votes needed to advance.

  • The bipartisan Coons-McCain bill—which failed 52 to 47, with Democrats in favor and Republicans mostly opposed—would have allowed 1.8 million undocumented immigrants to qualify for permanent residency and directed federal agencies to more effectively control the border by 2020, but offered no funding for President Trump's proposed border wall.
  • The Republican-sponsored Toomey amendment—which failed 54 to 45, with Republicans in favor and Democrats mostly opposed—would have penalized so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration policy by withholding federal funding from those municipalities.
  • The bipartisan Common Sense Coalition plan—which failed 54 to 45, with nearly all Democrats and eight Republicans in favor and the majority of the remaining Republicans opposed—would have provided a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, offered $25 billion for border security, and prevented DACA recipients from sponsoring their parents for legal status.
  • The Republican-sponsored Grassley bill—which failed 39 to 60, with Democrats united in opposition with a notable number of Republicans—echoed the White House's immigration framework, providing a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, building a border wall, eliminating the diversity visa lottery, and reforming family-based immigration.

It is unclear if, or when, Congress will again take up immigration legislation. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is now pointing to the end of March as the deadline for his chamber to take action on an immigration bill, The Hill reported. Ryan has stated that he will only bring up legislation that has the support of President Trump, making it a non-starter for many Democrats.

Meanwhile, some Republican senators are looking to a March 23 spending bill as a new goal post, signaling that the legislation could include a three-year extension of DACA.

Both timeframes are weeks after the March 5 deadline Trump set for Congress to approve a legislative solution to protect Dreamers. However, recent court orders have forced the administration to resume processing applications for renewed and initial DACA protections as long as litigation over the Obama-era program is ongoing. Two federal judges issued rulings in early 2018 blocking Trump's decision to wind down the program, throwing Congress's timeline into flux, reported The Hill. Further complicating Dreamers' legal limbo, the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to announce in a matter of days whether they will hear the Trump administration's appeal of the first injunction.


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