House set to vote on GOP immigration bills that CT Dems are likely to oppose

Kids in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in McAllen, Texas on June 17. The CBP released this photo.

Washington – The U.S. House plans to vote on two immigration bills this week that would help young immigrants known as “dreamers” and end the practice of separating children at the border from their undocumented parents.

Connecticut’s Democratic lawmakers, however, are likely to oppose those bills.

A spokesman for Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, said the lawmaker rejects both attempts by the GOP to pass immigration legislation. Other Connecticut lawmakers’ offices did not respond to requests for information on the bills, but have opposed some of the proposed measures before.

Both Republican immigration bills have been blasted by immigrant advocates in the state.

“The upcoming votes on immigration bills are just the latest example of the white supremacist agenda of this administration,” said Lucas Codognolla, executive director of Connecticut Students for a Dream.

The nation’s largest teacher’s union also rejected the GOP attempt to solve the nation’s immigration dilemma.

“The legislation in question… advances a hateful agenda of targeting immigrants and their families instead of doing what is right and necessary to provide certainty and protection to dreamers and their families,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García.

Approval of either of the bills is not guaranteed.  With little Democratic support expected, Republicans can afford few defectors if they want to pass either bill. Yet some Republicans are holding out hope that the issue could be resolved before November’s election.

“”This is the last, best chance. Who knows? Maybe for a long time,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

The bill, known as a “compromise bill” because it tries to bridge the gap between moderate and conservative Republicans, would authorize funding for a border wall and create a new visa category that could help  young, undocumented immigrants who were eligible for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA,  program that protected undocumented children who were brought to the United States by their parents from deportation.

But the bill would not give those dreamers special treatment or an expedited path to citizenship as many Democrat and moderate Republicans have insisted upon. Instead, dreamers would be able to obtain green cards, and, in turn, citizenship. The program would include a point system based on qualifications like education level, military service and employment.

Last September, President Donald Trump announced that he was ending the DACA program and set a March 5, 2018 deadline for Congress to replace it. The deadline was never met. But hundreds of thousands of dreamers have won temporary protections from deportation because Trump’s effort to end DACA is now under review in federal courts.

The immigration bill would also end the Trump administration practice of separating children from their undocumented parents at the border. The GOP solution would keep families united, albeit in federal custody.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a fierce critic of Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, plans to travel to McAllen, Texas on June 22 with other Democrats to visit the facilities where the children are being detained.

Curtailing ‘chain’ migration

The second bill the U.S. House will consider next week,  sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, D-Va., was drafted to win conservative Republican support and leans harder to the right than the “compromise” bill. It would include more money for Trump’s border wall, a sharp reduction in legal immigration, toughen employer verification measures and fail to provide dreamers a path to citizenship.

“The Goodlatte bill would build up Trump’s deportation force, tear families apart, and militarize the homes of communities along the border,” Codognolla said.

Both bills would end the “diversity lottery – which provides an estimated 50,000 visas to immigrants and is intended to bring in immigrants from underrepresented countries.

Both bills would also sharply curb family-based immigration, a policy that lets immigrants sponsor family members. Trump and conservative Republicans deride that policy as “chain immigration.”

In addition, both bills would curtail immigrant asylum claims. Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said immigration judges should not necessarily consider claims of domestic abuse or gang violence as a basis for an asylum claim.

“Asylum seekers are people who are fleeing violence from their home countries. Reducing protections for those most vulnerable people is not good policy,” said Enelsa Diaz, managing attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid.

To Catalina Horak, executive director of Stamford-based Building One, an immigrant advocacy organization, the proposed bills fail to tackle the biggest immigration issues facing the nation, including the fate of 11 million undocumented people living in the United States, some for decades.

“We continue to kick the can down the road,” Horak said. “We need to address all the issues. These are not comprehensive immigration reform bills.”

Trump on Friday threw attempts by House Republicans to pass an immigration bill into turmoil saying on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” that he is not planning to sign the compromise bill.

“I’m looking at both of them. I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one,” Trump said.

Another scene from U.S. video of immigrant children in a shelter after being separated from their parents.

The president further roiled the political waters by tweeting “The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda. Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!”

A White House official, however, put the effort to consider the immigration bills back on track by saying the president had been confused about the Fox News reporter’s question.

Later in the day, White House spokesman Rah Shah said Trump’s objections were based on a proposal by Republican moderates and Democrats and the president would backed two bills drafted only by Republicans.

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