First, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Says Domestic and Gang Violence Are No Longer Grounds for Asylum:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday made it all but impossible for asylum seekers to gain entry into the United States by citing fears of domestic abuse or gang violence, in a ruling that could have a broad effect on the flow of migrants from Central America.
Mr. Sessions’s decision in a closely watched domestic violence case is the latest turn in a long-running debate over what constitutes a need for asylum. He reversed an immigration appeals court ruling that granted it to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her husband.
Mr. Sessions’s decision overturns a precedent set during the Obama administration that allowed more women to claim credible fears of domestic abuse and will make it harder for such arguments to prevail in immigration courts. He said the Obama administration created “powerful incentives” for people to “come here illegally and claim a fear of return.”
The immigration discharge petition signature deadline has arrived. All signs point to the petition reaching the required 218 signatures by the end of the day, but negotiations are continuing in an effort to block it from forcing a vote.
The discharge petition, led by moderate Republicans, is designed to bypass House leadership and force a floor vote on a series of controversial immigration bills to protect so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
The petition is on a “queen of the hill” rule that would set up votes on four immigration measures, with the one receiving the most votes above a simple majority prevailing. It currently has 215 signatures, just three short of what’s needed to force a floor vote June 25.
Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Florida filed the discharge petition, and Jeff Denham of California authored the queen of the hill rule. They have been negotiating with GOP leaders and some of their conservative colleagues to see if they can come up with a Republican immigration compromise the House could vote on instead of the queen of the hill rule, which is expected to produce legislation supported primarily by Democrats.
The group of negotiators has been making progress on some key issues, but still had many yet to work through after their most recent meeting Friday. The negotiators will meet again Tuesday afternoon, but they’re not expected to have a deal to announce at that point.
Without a written agreement on legislation that can pass the House, Denham made clear that the discharge petition will get the final three signatures needed to reach the threshold. He told reporters after the Friday meeting that it was “extremely likely” the remaining signatures would be added Tuesday.
“I will be strongly encouraging members on Tuesday to sign the final signatures unless we have a written agreement,” Denham said.
Denham has said for weeks that he has more than enough Republicans prepared to sign the discharge petition to get to 218. While he’s held those members back from signing as the negotiations progressed, he named Tuesday as the deadline for an agreement to block the discharge petition from being activated.
Under House rules, a discharge petition takes seven legislative days to ripen once the signature threshold is reached before it can be called up for a vote on the following second or fourth Monday of the month.
Tuesday is the last day for Denham and the discharge petition supporters to complete the signature process if they want to force the queen of the hill vote on June 25. Otherwise, the next relevant Monday the House is in session to consider it is July 23.
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Getting to 218 signatures won’t put a halt to the Republicans’ negotiations on an alternative immigration bill. They can and are expected to negotiate up until June 25 to see if they can reach agreement within their party.
If they do reach such a deal, it would include a procedural mechanism for turning the discharge petition off or otherwise circumventing it.
POLITICO adds that GOP leaders try to cut deals to stop DACA vote:
House Republican leaders, eager to stop an immigration showdown in their chamber, have begun cutting deals with lawmakers who might help moderate Republicans trigger bipartisan votes to protect Dreamers.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy phoned Rep. Dennis Ross on Monday and offered the Florida Republican what he wanted in hopes of keeping him from joining the moderates’ discharge petition: the promise of a vote on a guest worker program before August recess.
Ross appeared to be satisfied after the call from McCarthy. And it‘s unclear now whether GOP moderates will be able to garner enough support for the so-called discharge petition by the close of business Tuesday, as they originally intended.
“I’m probably going to take myself off the [discharge petition] watch list,” Ross said in a brief interview. A guest worker program for immigrants employed in agriculture and construction and the like “has been my big issue. We need to have labor. We’re in a negative population growth in the United States … Where we going to find people to do these jobs?”
It is unclear what Ross’ decision means for the discharge petition’s fate. Moderates on Friday began downplaying the Tuesday deadline, arguing that technically they could force the immigration matter in July or even later if they wanted.
If they push back their deadline, however, it will be the third time they’ve done so. Originally, moderates, who rarely go against leadership, said they wanted to have a deal with conservatives on immigration before the Memorial Day recess — or they’d force the issue and garner the final signatures before the break. That came and went, however, with moderates eyeing a June 7 deadline instead. Then the date became June 12.
Moderates argue that they have the signatures ready to go and have just been holding off to give leadership more time to come up with a DACA bill the majority of the conference can support.
If moderates are unwilling or unable to garner the final signatures, it’s unlikely that House Republicans will have any votes this summer to protect Dreamers from deportation. Talks between conservatives and moderates on the matter have stalled over enforcement matters, though GOP leaders will meet with both camps Tuesday night to continue negotiations.
Many Republicans are skeptical that they’ll be able to strike a deal. Indeed, top Republicans from the House Freedom Caucus told moderates that they’re unlikely to have an agreement by Tuesday, suggesting they forge ahead with their petition if that’s what they intended to do. That’s because moderates on Friday balked at conservatives‘ demands for beefed-up immigration enforcement measures in return for hard-liners’ support for a new path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.
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Another key issue is reform of the U.S. asylum system, which immigration opponents believe has been routinely abused. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that victims of domestic abuse or gang violence may not qualify for asylum. Sessions said there are about 700,000 immigration cases outstanding in federal courts as asylum claims have soared in recent years.
“Border security — and that is to include things well beyond any appropriations for wall funding — remains the biggest stumbling block,” said Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus. “Most conservatives want to make sure if we deal with this DACA issue, we’re not having to deal with it again in another decade from now. That’s why the enforcement issue is so critical.”
With the immigration talks deadlocked, attention has shifted to moderate Republicans, who are prepared to join with Democrats and force a DACA vote in defiance of Ryan and President Donald Trump. Like Ross, Rep. Daniel Newhouse (R-Wash.) has also considered joining with the two dozen moderates and Democrats to force bipartisan votes on Dreamers.
One Democratic holdout, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, has declined to sign the discharge petition because he opposes any plan that would provide funding for Trump’s border wall. But Cuellar is expected to come around if two additional Republicans add their names.
“My Republican colleagues need to get two additional signatures in order to bring this to a vote. If they are able to do so, then I will consider signing onto the petition,” Cuellar said in a statement Monday.
In a significant development last week, conservatives and moderates had appeared to coalesce behind a new visa program for Dreamers and other types of immigrants floated by Labrador. Giving Dreamers a pathway to citizenship would satisfy the top demand of moderates.
But conservatives, who for years have railed against a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, wanted certain enforcement measures included in the bill. On Friday, conservatives laid out some of those demands, also pushing for E-Verify over the weekend.
Some moderates are now privately accusing conservatives of shifting their demands after the framework of a deal had been agreed to. Conservatives counter that there never was an agreement in the first place.
“Typical Freedom Caucus,” scoffed one moderate GOP source.
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Republican sources say they’re still hoping to bring compromise legislation to the floor, even if falls short of passage as expected. That plan, at least, would avoid the embarrassment of a Democratic-backed immigration bill passing the Republican-led House, a likely outcome if the discharge petition moves forward.
“At this point the goal is really to allow both sides of our conference to be on the record with their position while averting the discharge petition,” a senior GOP aide said Monday.
But it’s unclear what incentive Republican moderates have to go along with such an idea — assuming a compromise can even be reached — if the bill is expected to fail on the floor.