Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich voted against three of the four immigration proposals that came to the Senate floor Thursday, all of which ultimately failed to get the necessary votes to proceed.
The New Mexico Democrats voted for a bill by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del., that would have allowed Dreamers to qualify for permanent residence and directed federal agencies to more effectively control the border by 2020. But that bill didn’t offer the Dreamers a special path to citizenship or make sweeping changes to federal immigration rules. The McCain-Coons bill failed along with three other pieces of immigration legislation, leaving the Senate with no immediate legislative path for protecting Dreamers.
Trump has ordered the Obama-ear Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program canceled on March 5, although two federal judges have issued injunctions to keep the program in place.
Also Thursday, Udall and Heinrich were among just three Democrats to vote against a late-emerging compromise bill offered by Sens. Angus King, a Maine independent, and Mike Rounds, R-S.D. Sen. Kamala Harris of Illinois was the third Democrat to vote against the legislation, as did eight Republicans.
The King-Rounds bill would have protected Dreamers but also financed Trump’s demands for money to build border wall, though more gradually than he wants. The bill would have also directed ICE not to target immigrants without criminal records. That proposal also failed.
Udall and Heinrich have said they are open to spending some money to bolster the U.S. border with Mexico but they oppose the construction of the massive border wall that President Donald Trump has demanded at a cost of at least $25 billion. They issued a joint statement Thursday explaining their rationale.
“New Mexicans support smart border security measures, but President Trump’s border wall is a symbol of everything that’s wrong with this administration,” the lawmakers said. “He is unabashedly ransoming the lives of Dreamers as bargaining chips to achieve one of his most bigoted and divisive ideas. A $25 billion boondoggle is not only an outlandish waste of taxpayers’ money, but is also not a smart investment in border security or what families and communities in New Mexico want or need.”
It’s not clear what’s next for the Senate on the immigration issue, but the failure to reach consensus on Thursday is another chapter to an immigration debate that has remained intractable in Congress for years.