‘It’s the job of Congress’: Republicans on Capitol Hill dismiss Trump’s immigration plan
Even if they continue to do nothing as they have since Jan 20, 2017.
The White House is struggling to get Republicans to sign up to President Trump’s 70-point immigration crackdown plan, with key lawmakers saying that while they appreciate his input, they will take over from here.
Many Republicans chose not to respond at all to Mr. Trump’s plans, which include a border wall, a crackdown on sanctuary cities and a massive rewrite of immigration law to close loopholes that illegal immigrants have used to gain a foothold in the U.S. over the past two decades.
Among lawmakers who did weigh in were southwest border-state Republicans or lawmakers who have been deeply involved in trying to craft a legislative solution to protect Dreamers, the younger illegal immigrants whose fate has moved to the center of the immigration debate on Capitol Hill.
On Monday, lawmakers said it was time for the president to take a step back.
“It is the job of Congress, not the president, to make legal reforms to our immigration policies,” said Rep. Stevan Pearce, a Republican whose district covers the southern half of New Mexico.
Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican who is offering what his office bills as the “conservative” alternative to the Dream Act, said Mr. Trump’s plan highlights the broken parts of the immigration system but that Congress needs to act.
“Congress must stop kicking the can down the road and finally address our border security and immigration problems,” Mr. Lankford said.
Democrats cheered the Republicans’ reticence, saying it appeared they were turning their backs on “draconian and hard-line” policies from the White House.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico Democrat and chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the silence from Republicans is a signal that Mr. Trump has failed to sell his plan, leaving Democrats space to negotiate with willing Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“Many Republicans both in the Senate and the House have said [Mr. Trump’s requests] are nonstarters,” the congresswoman told reporters on a conference call Monday.
The White House plans seek funding for Mr. Trump’s proposed border wall, stricter limits on family-linked “chain migration,” employer mandates to use E-Verify to check potential hires’ work eligibility, and elimination of the random lottery that doles out some 50,000 immigrant visas a year.
Mr. Trump also proposed major changes to immigration law, including overturning a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that limits how long illegal immigrants can be detained, rewriting a 2008 law that has allowed illegal immigrant children from Central America to stream into the U.S., and imposing a criminal misdemeanor penalty on foreign visitors who overstay their visas to become illegal immigrants.
The White House said Mr. Trump built the 70-point plan from the ground up, with input from the departments and agencies that handle illegal immigration.
The principles were sent to congressional leaders late Sunday evening, ahead of the Columbus Day federal holiday.
On Monday, the White House touted reaction from the president’s top advisers, pointing to positive statements from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the heads of the Commerce, State and Homeland Security departments.
Mr. Trump did some outreach with Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is sponsoring one of the most prominent Dream Act proposals. The two men hit the links at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia, where they talked immigration, tax reform and health care, the White House said.
Mr. Graham had yet to comment publicly on the immigration principles.
Among Republicans who did cheer the president’s plan was Rep. Lou Barletta, a Pennsylvania Republican who is running for Senate next year and who said Mr. Trump took a stand to defend “forgotten” Americans.
“These principles are clear, reasonable and essential to bring the rule of law back to the immigration system,” he said. “For far too long, Washington political elites have let open-border policies cripple worker wages and overburden local public resources like schools and hospitals.”
But Democrats are uniformly opposed, and immigrant rights groups said they were horrified at the president’s demands.
One group of Dreamers called it part of a “nationalist and white supremacist agenda.”
Other activists said the principles were so strident that they doubted Mr. Trump approved them. They speculated that hard-liners within the White House had hijacked the president’s plans.
“We will be watching to hear from the president himself,” said Frank Sharry, executive director at America’s Voice.
Several groups said the extensive wish list appeared to be designed to scuttle chances for a deal on Capitol Hill.
But congressional Democrats said they still see willing partners among some Republicans. The question is whether Republican leaders will let them negotiate.
“There is bipartisan support in Congress to get this done, and the votes are there,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat. “It is up to Republican congressional leaders to decide if they are serious about moving forward and if they will let the majority in the House of Representatives who support the Dream Act to have a vote and protect Dreamers before the deportations ramp up further.”
Ms. Grisham, head of the Hispanic Caucus, said Democrats will start flexing their legislative muscle soon by withholding support for must-pass bills unless Congress takes quick action on the Dream Act.
“They are not going to have Democrats to get them over the finish line on anything they need,” she said.