Congress scrambles to make last-minute immigration deals

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A handful of bipartisan senators are scrambling to strike separate eleventh-hour immigration deals before Republicans take control of the House in January and make politically delicate deals even harder to reach.

The senses. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Thom Tillis (RN.C.) presented a potential immigration proposal that would pave the way for legalization for 2 million undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children , known as “Dreamers,” in return for at least $25 billion in increased funding for Border Patrol and border security. The bipartisan framework, which is in flux, would also extend Title 42 of at least a year until new “regional treatment centers” called for in the bill can be built, according to a Senate aide.The Trump administration instituted Title 42 during the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that the immediate deportation of the migrants was necessary due to the public health crisis.

Meanwhile, the senses. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are negotiating on a narrower bill based on a House-passed measure that paved the way for citizenship for some undocumented farm workers. The senators have yet to reach a deal but hope to strike one before the end of this month’s lame session, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who, like others in this report, spoke in anonymous to describe the situation frankly.

The last-minute push comes as Congress faces the end of another term without addressing an immigration overhaul and as the United States prepares for an end to mass deportations at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as the possibility of a federal judge withdrawing an Obama-era program that protects dreamers from deportation.

Although negotiations are underway on possible legislation, Congress is unlikely to consider changes this term as both houses race to prioritize preventing a government shutdown and passing defense spending. with only three weeks. The Senate has not taken up two bipartisan bills sent from the House in March 2021 that would have extended protections to those covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and to agricultural workers as the United States faces to a labor shortage.

The ruling that could end DACA, handed down in October, brought Democrats from both houses back to the negotiating table. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus pushed fellow Senate Democrats to act as House Democrats still hold the majority, knowing that any proposal that had a chance of becoming law would have to come from the Senate, where at least 10 GOP votes are required to pass the legislation.

In addition to protecting 2 million dreamers, Sinema and Tillis’ plan would allocate funds for border security, the hiring of more officers and salary increases for officers. Additional funds for border security and detention would exceed the $25 billion demanded by President Donald Trump in his 2018 border proposal and could even exceed $40 billion, a Senate aide said. The proposal also includes changes to the country’s asylum process and would keep Title 42 in place until regional processing centers are built to house migrants.

The centers would mirror what is outlined in the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, a bicameral agreement proposed last year, and hold migrants while their immigration cases are heard and adjudicated more quickly, to replace the current process in which many asylum seekers are released and face a full court, which can take months or years. Last month, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ordered the government to stop deporting migrants under Title 42 by December 21.

Two people familiar with negotiations between Sinema and Tillis say senators have yet to vote to see if their loose cadre could win the support needed to overcome the filibuster, and the details of the proposal could change to win more supports. Lawmakers hope to secure that support before the end of the year, but with time running out and major legislative cases still undecided, the group faces a long chance. Depending on who wins the Senate runoff in Georgia, Democrats will need nine or 10 Republicans to pass legislation in the new year. The framework contains provisions that could be politically risky for left and right, given the criticism of Title 42 by many Democrats and the reluctance of some Republicans to pave the way for legalization for any immigrant.

Immigration has become a politically toxic issue over the decades, with Republicans who once served in the House GOP majority privately warning that anything is unlikely to be done as the far right in the conference considers any bipartisan deal too “soft” on immigration.

House Republicans have publicly shown that their priority is to investigate Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his leadership on the border. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is seeking to become next-term president, issued an ultimatum to Mayorkas last month when he called on the secretary to resign or face investigations that could lead to his dismissal.

The inclusion of the Title 42 provision in a possible immigration framework could tempt Republicans who have publicly criticized the Biden administration to no longer enforce it as a way to stem the growing number of undocumented immigrants entering the states. -United.

Some senators remain skeptical of a Republican House majority’s ability to strike a deal on immigration, as the House was unable to pass a compromise bill in 2018 after outrage from the right flank of the conference. Half a dozen Republican members have privately voiced the need for farmworkers to fill jobs in their rural communities, but they know even that bipartisan measure is likely to face a blockade from staunch conservatives.

The House will vote this week on two immigration bills that would phase out the per-country cap on employment-based immigrant visas and grant residency status to non-citizen veterans subject to deportation. Neither is expected to be taken up by the Senate, given the limited timeline to pass non-appropriations bills before the end of the year.

Although Republicans remain privately skeptical that a divided Congress could strike an immigration deal that lands on President Biden’s desk before the 2024 election, several pragmatic House Republicans, particularly members Hispanics, are in contact with the Democrats to find a consensus so that they can pass legislation with their very thin margin.

“I’m looking for partners, and it’s been very difficult in this political environment to find partners who want to have a real conversation. But we’re still able to do it,” said Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Tex.), before highlighting the bipartisan Border Solutions Act he proposed alongside Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) .

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), who made immigration reform a major platform during her tenure in the House, said she’s starting to have talks with Democrats and Republicans on reviving his Immigration Dignity Act next term.

“There is no way we can just seal the border and not deal with people who are here illegally. It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “We need immigrant hands to keep this economy growing.”

Public policy groups, however, continue to increase pressure on Congress to act. Kristie De Peña, vice president of policy at the Niskanen Center, on Monday endorsed what she called Sinema-Tillis’ “historic framework” because its adoption would represent “a significant step toward improving our immigration system. “.

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