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US Senate Defeats Multiple Immigration Reform Proposals


From left, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., finish a news conference on the bipartisan immigration deal they reached, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 15, 2018. That plan and three others seeking immigration reform were all ultimately rejected.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday rejected all four immigration proposals the chamber considered during a week of deliberations dedicated to addressing the legal status of young undocumented immigrants who could be at risk of deportation beginning March 5.

Failing to advance in the chamber were two bipartisan proposals granting young immigrants a path to citizenship and boosting U.S. border security, President Donald Trump’s sweeping immigration blueprint, and a measure to crack down on cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Trump’s plan received the fewest votes, just 39 in the 100-member chamber.

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Late Thursday, the White House issued a statement saying the Senate Democrats had “filibustered a proposal with an extremely generous path to citizenship because it also contained reforms that secured our border and secured out immigration system.”

The Democrats “chose to filibuster it,” the statement said, “because they are held hostage by the radical left in their party, which opposes any immigration control at all.”

“I’m disappointed we weren’t able to find a solution today but that does not mean our work is over,” Colorado Republican Cory Gardner tweeted.

“I’m very concerned about the fate of Dreamers across the country who now face an uncertain future,” Delaware Democrat Chris Coons posted on Twitter, using a term that is sometimes used to describe young undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children.

DACA program

Nearly 800,000 Dreamers benefited from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama administration program that allowed them to work and study in the United States. Trump rescinded the program last year and set a March 5 expiration date.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., flanked by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., left, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, discusses efforts to reach agreement on immigration reform, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 15, 2018.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., flanked by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., left, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, discusses efforts to reach agreement on immigration reform, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 15, 2018.

The Senate voted after a war of words erupted between the White House and a bipartisan group of lawmakers backing compromise legislation that had been thought to have the best chance of advancing.

In a statement, the White House said the measure "would produce a flood of new illegal immigration" and "undermine the safety and security of American families" by "weakening border security and undermining existing immigration laws."

The legislation, backed by 16 senators of both political parties, would have offered a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, boosted border security funding by $25 billion, and focused immigration enforcement efforts on criminals, threats to national security, and those arriving illegally after the end of June.

"This is the one and only bill that deals with immigration issues with broad bipartisan support," Republican Susan Collins of Maine said ahead of the vote.

Hours earlier, the Department of Homeland Security slammed the Senate proposal's directive on which undocumented immigrants should be targeted for removal as "the end of immigration enforcement in America."

"Who the hell wrote this?" Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said. "It sounded like it came from a political hack, not DHS."

Immigration reform conflicts

Graham added that as long as immigration hardliners dominate in the Trump administration, "we're going nowhere fast [on immigration reform] at warp speed."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., walk outside the chamber during debate in the Senate on immigration, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 14, 2018.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., walk outside the chamber during debate in the Senate on immigration, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 14, 2018.

Trump has urged far-reaching reforms that include limiting family-based immigration and prioritizing newcomers who have advanced work skills.

His immigration agenda had been encapsulated in legislation Republican lawmakers introduced earlier this week. Democratic senators countered with a proposal that pairs help for young immigrants with limited border security enhancements. Both were defeated on the Senate floor.

"It looks like demagogues on the left and the right win again on immigration," Graham tweeted. "Looking ahead, I continue to believe there is a deal to be had on immigration that gives President Trump many of his priorities on the border and relief for the DACA-eligible population."

Democrats put the blame squarely on the White House.

"There's only one reason the Senate will be unable to reach a bipartisan solution to DACA: President Trump," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. "Immigration is always a contentious issue. … If there was ever a time for presidential leadership, this was it. President Trump has failed this test of leadership spectacularly."

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