WASHINGTON – At an impasse on immigration, House Republicans and Senate Democrats advanced competing proposals Wednesday for dealing with tens of thousands of young migrants showing up at the southern border. Each side quickly ruled the other’s approach unacceptable, leaving a solution a remote possibility with Congress’ annual August recess looming.
Unless Democrats capitulate, “We’re going to be at an impasse and we will have earned even greater disdain from the American people than we already have,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said.
But Republicans were having difficulty agreeing even among themselves.
At a meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner urged action to address the border crisis, reminding GOP lawmakers that the Border Patrol and other agencies would be running out of money in coming months because of the heavy influx of unaccompanied minors and families at the border.
A working group appointed by Boehner rolled out proposals including sending in the National Guard and changing a 2008 trafficking victims law to allow Central American kids to be turned around quickly at the border and sent back home. Lawmakers announced plans to chop President Barack Obama’s $3.7 billion emergency spending request for the border crisis down to $1.5 billion.
But as they left the meeting some of the more conservative members of the GOP caucus made clear they were unconvinced.
“If Republicans move forward on this, we’re now jumping right in the middle of President Obama’s nightmare and making it ours,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La.
Fleming said Boehner told Republicans he was undecided about bringing the plan to the floor because he didn’t know whether there were enough votes to pass it.
The path forward was not much clearer in the Senate, where Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., prepared to introduce legislation paring Obama’s spending request back to $2.7 billion for more immigration judges, detention facilities and other resources.
But Mikulski said she was omitting from her legislation any changes to the 2008 trafficking victims law, which Republicans say has contributed to the crisis by allowing Central American youths to stay in this country indefinitely while awaiting far-off court dates.
Without GOP support it wasn’t clear the Senate would be able to advance a bill, and it wasn’t evident whether a compromise could emerge.
White House officials and some Democrats were initially open to changing the 2008 law, but there has been a backlash from immigration advocates who say kids would be sent back to their deaths at the hands of vicious gangs in parts of Central America. Now most Democrats say they are strongly opposed.
“I’m willing to compromise on things, but it depends on what,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said. “If they really want to take these kids and ship them back in five days without giving them the right to at least have a decent right to claim asylum, no, I’m not going to change on that.”