GOP train wreck on immigration coming next week


The other day I told you that the House schedules vote on two DACA bills destined to fail:

So now we have the hardline Goodlatte-MsSally bill from the GOP House Freedom Caucus, which does not have the votes to pass Congress, and a so-called GOP moderate bill still being drafted that will fall far short of the Dream Act and the bipartisan measure that couples a path to citizenship for Dreamers with beefed-up border security.

House Republicans have released a first draft of their new “compromise” immigration bill, the “Border Security and Immigration Reform Act.”

The nearly 300-page bill is one of two that the entire House will vote on next week. It is considered a GOP “moderate” alternative to the GOP conservative bill proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).


The New York Times reports, House Immigration Bill, Pitched as Compromise, Tilts to a Harder Line:

The draft bill, circulating among lawmakers on Thursday afternoon and up for a vote next week, closely adheres to President Trump’s vision for an immigration overhaul. In addition to protecting the young immigrants, it provides billions of dollars for a wall on the southwest border while imposing new limits on legal immigration.

The bill would also toughen rules for asylum seekers. And it would address the separation of children from parents under the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal border crossings by mandating that families be kept together while in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, according to a summary of the measure.

In effect, the measure would offer Democrats and immigration moderates in the Republican Party a difficult choice: accept hard-line changes to much of the immigration system in exchange for protections for young undocumented immigrants and what appears to be a modification of the wrenching policy of splitting up families at the border.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, tried Thursday to blame Democrats for the family-separation policy that the Trump administration started — because Democrats have refused to accept the broader changes in immigration policy demanded by the president.

“The separation of illegal alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close, and these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade,” she said.

As always, the slack-jawed hillbilly from Arkansas is a stone-cold liar. Fact Check: Republicans Misplace Blame for Splitting Families at the Border:

Hundreds of migrant children have been separated from their parents at the border since October, but there is no decades-old law or court decision that requires this.

Ms. Sanders, is referring to a class-action lawsuit that was initially brought against the Reagan administration, as Flores v. Meese, and settled under the Clinton administration in 1997, as Flores v. Reno.

The Flores settlement required immigration officials to “place each detained minor in the least restrictive setting appropriate” — for example, providing food, water and toilets. The government also agreed to release immigrant children “without unnecessary delay” under an established preference ranking for custody.

In 2016, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled that the Flores settlement “unambiguously applies both to minors who are accompanied and unaccompanied by their parents.” It also overturned a Federal District Court’s decision that the government must also release the parents.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April, stating that “our goal is to prosecute every case that is brought to us” — thus leading to the detention of migrant parents.

In other words, without the Trump administration’s new enforcement policy, the Flores settlement — and subsequent rulings clarifying its scope — alone would not have caused family separation at the border. As The New York Times reported last month:

Spurred on by the president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month announced a “zero tolerance” policy in which people who cross the border illegally are to be subject to criminal prosecution. On Tuesday, the administration officials argued that the two directives, taken together, essentially left them with no option other than to take children from their parents at the border.

Under Flores, the government has three options: releasing families together, passing a law that would allow for family detention or breaking up the families. The Trump administration has so far chosen the third option.

Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration chose the most cruel and inhumane option, breaking up families.

Our Confederate Attorney General tried to defend his actions yesterday, Sessions says the Bible justifies separating immigrant families. But of course he did:

When Southern preachers blasted Northern abolitionists for defying the Fugitive Slave Act in the decade leading to the Civil War, they cited the same lines.

And on Thursday, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions stood at a lectern before a room in Fort Wayne, Ind., to defend the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their immigrant parents, he reached for the same quote from the 13th chapter of the New Testament book of Romans.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” the nation’s top law enforcement official said, The Washington Post reported. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”

The passage — “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” — has been read as an unequivocal order for Christians to obey state authority, a reading that not only justified Southern slavery but also authoritarian rule in Nazi Germany and South African apartheid.

But because the interpretation runs counter to so much of the Christian message, and drills right into the borderlands between church and state, the passage has also been incredibly controversial. In 1744, clergyman Elisha Williams remarked that the text was “often wrecked and tortured by such wits as were disposed to serve the designs of arbitrary power.”

Naturally, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Session’s comments, saying “It’s very biblical to enforce the law”.

Alex Nowrasteh, the senior immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, writes at the LA Times, The DACA ‘compromise’ bill is the worst immigration legislation in a century:

[Speaker Ryan] released one of those bills Thursday. The other has been kicking around Washington for a while: the Securing America’s Future Act. The White House supported an earlier version of it, stating that it “would accomplish the President’s core priorities for the American people.” The problem is that even if the SAF Act doesn’t pass, its draconian cuts to immigration will be the Republican starting point for all future negotiations.

The primary outrage is this: SAF won’t give Dreamers green cards. Instead it grants renewable residency permits — with no pathway to citizenship — to some DACA recipients. Worse, the restrictions are so onerous that few Dreamers could ever spend a year as a stay-at-home mother, risk starting a small business or even become a priest. That’s because this bill would make it a crime for anyone holding a SAF permit to have an income below 125% of poverty level.

The House sponsors of the SAF Act claim it will cut only about a quarter of all green cards, but they are significantly understating its effect.

SAF cuts the number of legal immigrants by about 40% initially, and that number could reach 50% over 10 years. It cancels the diversity green card lottery, eliminates all family-sponsored immigration categories except for the most immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, and cuts to the bone the number of asylum seekers who will be admitted.

The SAF Act also purports to increase the number of highly skilled immigrants allowed into the U.S., and allocates 55,000 additional green cards toward that. But of adults who immigrated on a family or diversity visa in 2015, 47% had a college degree. The impact of any cuts to those programs will far outweigh the added employment visas.

This bill also poses major trouble for the families of legal immigrants. Under SAF, legal immigrants who already have a green card would be mostly unable to bring their foreign-born spouses or children to the U.S. Additionally, immigrants who have waited for decades for a type of green card that would be eliminated by the SAF bill would suddenly have their applications canceled and their fees confiscated. So much for respecting immigrants who played by the rules.

Republicans have for years claimed that they oppose only illegal immigration, and President Trump, as a candidate said he wanted immigrants “to come in, but they’ve got to come in like you: legally.” The SAF’s sponsors are clearly not on the same page.

It’s misleading to even call the SAF Act an immigration bill. As a matter of rhetoric, it’s an anti-immigration piece of legislation. If a Democratic politician sponsored a bill to cut legal gun ownership by 40%, Republicans would rightly call it an anti-gun bill. The same rules ought to apply here.

In addition, even though the number of illegal border crossings is at a 46-year low, the bill would spend about $124 billion over the next five years on border security. That’s about seven times what it cost to fund the Border Patrol for the five years from 2012 to 2017.

Congress hasn’t considered an immigration bill this bad since the 1920s, when it passed the Emergency Quota Act in 1921 and the National Origins Act in 1924. Those laws ended most immigration from Europe, slashing it by about 75%. The Great Depression followed soon after, leading to further tightening of immigration laws.

* * *

Even if that sorry history doesn’t repeat itself, the SAF Act is still the worst immigration bill introduced in almost a century. Republican hardliners say it’s a compromise — helping out Dreamers in return for more border security. It’s not. It’s a strategy for deporting Dreamers over a longer period of time while cutting legal immigration in half, canceling the applications of those who have patiently waited for a green card, and wasting $124 billion.

The Times adds that the SAF is also being attacked by the anti-immigrant right as not harsh  enough:

Within hours of the draft’s release, Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that it would urge lawmakers to vote against the measure, deriding it as “amnesty.”

And this morning, right on cue, “President Donald Trump on Friday said he would not sign a carefully crafted GOP bill addressing the predicament of Dreamers, news that caught House Republicans by surprise and left the legislation on life support.” Trump crushes hopes for compromise DACA plan:

The House is set to vote on two immigration bills next week — a conservative proposal crafted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and a more “moderate,” compromise proposal GOP leaders negotiated with centrist Republicans and conservatives. The latter was crafted to fit Trump’s own proposal to increase security, curb legal immigration and shield Dreamers from deportation.

But Trump said he’s not interested.

“I’m looking at both of them,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” in an interview Friday morning from the White House lawn. “I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one.”

Trump’s words dealt a potentially fatal blow to the carefully crafted immigration package that Republican leaders have been working on for weeks.

* * *

Trump’s comments come after Ryan and other members of the House leadership team told reporters that they’d described their bill to the president and he was “excited” about it. Ryan has stressed to reporters that he has been working “hand in glove” with the administration in writing the bill.

Indeed, senior White House [white nationalist] policy adviser Stephen Miller came to Capitol Hill earlier this week to encourage wary conservatives fearful of backlash from the base to support the plan. And GOP leaders in meetings talked about the possibility of Trump as well as the White House helping them whip support.

* * *

Instead, Trump has put GOP leaders in a corner where they’ll have to ask Republicans to vote against their own president to back a controversial bill [the Goodlatte bill] on the topic that divides the party most.

It’s a rebuke to Ryan and his team, who’ve spent hours huddled in the speaker’s office trying to hash out an immigration bill that moderate Republicans from districts with big Latino populations and conservatives could back.

* * *

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) warned of this scenario as recently as Thursday, arguing that nobody speaks for the president except the president himself. And the president, he said, has not weighed in.

The Times notes:

Democrats and other critics of the speaker said that the bill is destined to fail, and accused Mr. Ryan of putting it on the floor solely to give political cover to the moderates, many of them vulnerable in this fall’s midterm elections and facing demands from constituents to address the Dreamers’ fate.

Trump just cut off any hope for these so-called GOP moderates. Congress is going to go through the motions next week and both bills are going to fail. It is a total GOP train wreck. There will be no DACA fix or immigration bill from a Republican Congress.

And this is by design. Trump needs a boogeyman around which to rally his xenophobic white nationalist anti-immigrant base. The GOP tax cut is not resonating with voters, so Republicans will now campaign on what our racist “Dear Leader” demagogue does best, race-baiting scapegoating and anti-immigrant hysteria. This is now the Trump Party. Things are going to get ugly.


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