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July 30, 2014

Posts in "Immigration"

July 29, 2014

Pelosi: GOP Border Bill ‘Unjust and Inhumane’

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blistered the GOP’s border bill as “unjust and inhumane” in a statement Tuesday.

“We must have a heart, and look into our souls to guide us in our treatment of these desperate children,” the California Democrat said of the tens of thousands of unauthorized migrants who have flooded the border. “While we are reminded of the critical importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform, we must do so much more than the Republicans’ unjust and inhumane proposal.”

It’s not unusual for Pelosi to blast a Republican measure, but in this case, it’s not clear Republicans can pass their bill if Pelosi puts the hammer down on Democrats who cross party lines.  Full story

Dysfunctional Congress Sprints to Chaotic Finish

A Congress known for its dysfunction and acrimony may be on the verge of a rare triple combo — passing major bills addressing the border crisis, the Veterans Affairs scandal and the Highway Trust Fund in one week. But if it happens, it’s going to be like the rest of the 113th: ugly.

The pre-August sprint got off on the right foot with the announcement Monday of a $17 billion deal to slash wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs, followed Tuesday by the 97-0 confirmation of former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary.

A highway patch seemed likely too, although not without last-minute wrangling between the two chambers over the fine print.

But the border supplemental remained very much in doubt — perhaps appropriately for a Congress that has failed to complete an immigration overhaul. Full story

Advocates Grade Congress on Immigration (Updated)

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Immigration overhaul advocates hold a large rally in front of the White House Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Frustrated by lack of action and unfulfilled promises on the immigration overhaul front, a coalition of 10 advocacy groups is out to hold House members accountable for the extent to which they were unhelpful to the cause.

A new scorecard for all 435 members’ immigration votes, statements and co-sponsorships aims to draw a stark portrait of “who stands with us and who does not,” said Hispanic Federation President José Calderón. The rankings come as Congress nears a boiling point on an emergency funding request from President Barack Obama intended to mitigate the crisis at the border as children cross illegally into the United States.

The first-of-its-kind scorecard was released Monday, as advocates gathered a stone’s throw from the Capitol for the grand unveiling, calling for action and scolding lawmakers for what they see as stonewalling on a critical issue.

“Every ‘zero’ you see in that scorecard is personal to us,” said Rocio Sáenz, a member of the board of directors for Mi Familia Vota.

“There is some explaining that needs to be done as to why they said to us in private that they supported immigration reform, yet their report card says different,” said Tony Suárez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Republicans received significantly lower rankings than Democrats. Clarissa Martínez de Castro, the deputy vice president of the National Council of La Raza Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, said the discrepancy reflected a “Republican leadership failure,” though the organizations behind the scorecard insist the results are based on the facts and aren’t motivated by party preference.

Here’s a look at the rankings, based on members’ positions in 11 different areas over the past several months: Full story

$659 Million Border Bill Planned by GOP (Updated) (Video)

gop meeting008 101013 367x335 $659 Million Border Bill Planned by GOP (Updated) (Video)

Rogers, center, said funding for Israel and wildfires would not be in the GOP’s border bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:17 a.m. | Republicans hope to pass $659 million in supplemental spending for the border crisis before leaving for the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner said after a GOP conference meeting Tuesday.

The Ohio Republican said the House will “attempt to move this bill” on Thursday and said he anticipated the measure would have “sufficient support,” but noted there is still “a little more work to do to” to shore up the votes.

Two-thirds of the funding will be for border security, with $40 million going to prevention and $197 million going to humanitarian assistance, according to a GOP aide. It will run through Sept. 30.

The bill is far smaller than the $3.7 billion President Barack Obama sought for border security alone. Full story

By Emma Dumain Posted at 10:36 a.m.
Immigration

Watch Live: Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services Testifies Before House Committee

The House Judiciary Committee holds a 10 a.m. oversight hearing questioning Leon Rodriguez, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who was sworn in on July 9.

July 25, 2014

Pelosi: Don’t Tack Expedited Deportations to Border Bill (Video)

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Pelosi says changes to speed up deportations shouldn’t be a part of the House border bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday morning that a bill to provide emergency funding for the child migrant crisis at the Southern border should not be tied to changes in a 2008 human trafficking law.

“You want to have a separate bill on 2008? Discuss it there. But don’t hold the children hostage to the cosmetics of how tough you are on the border,” Pelosi said at a news conference Friday morning.

The trafficking law is a major point of contention between Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans arguing that changes in the law would expedite deportations of the tens of thousands of children at the border and Democrats saying such changes would infringe upon a child’s right to due process.

“There’s no reason why they have to be tied and I hope that the Republicans will come to that conclusion,” Pelosi said. She later added, “I very firmly believe that it would be a mistake to do immigration law on a supplemental bill.” Full story

July 24, 2014

Texas GOP Delegation to Obama: Enforce Immigration Law

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Smith took the lead on sending a letter to Obama on the border crisis (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House and Senate Republicans of the Texas congressional delegation are the latest contingent to stake out a position on the border crisis as time left to act on the issue before the August recess recedes.

On Thursday, all 26 Lone Star State Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill — 24 in the House and two in the Senate — signed on to a letter to President Barack Obama that lays out actions they want him to take to respond to the surge of child migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Full story

Boehner Still Pushing on Border Supplemental, VA Crisis (Video)

With time running out before the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner still wants deals for a border supplemental and to address the VA health care crisis, but put the onus on the Democrats and the White House to move in the GOP’s direction.

Boehner said Republicans were still talking with their colleagues about a supplemental spending package to address the flood of children crossing the border, and he said those conversations would continue in the days leading up to the August recess.

“But understand: It’s time for the White House to get their act together,” the Ohio Republican said. “They want to change the ’08 law and address the underlying problem here, or don’t they?” Full story

July 23, 2014

House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

rogers091013 445x317 House GOP Forges Ahead on Border Funding Legislation With No Clear Endgame

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:06 p.m. | House Republicans laid out their requirements for President Barack Obama’s border crisis spending request Wednesday: National Guard troops, more judges for expedited deportations and changes to a 2008 trafficking law that would make it easier to send Central American minors home.

But with little more than a week before lawmakers are supposed to leave town for the August recess, Democrats digging in against changing the 2008 law, and some conservatives complaining the deportation provisions aren’t harsh enough, it’s not clear GOP leaders have the votes needed to send their bill to the Senate.

Throughout the day Wednesday, GOP leaders, appropriators and stakeholder members huddled with colleagues to corral support for a possible $1.5 billion bill — the White House originally asked for $3.7 billion — to fund enforcement agencies that have been stretched thin by the overwhelming surge of Central American migrants in southern Texas.

But as of Wednesday afternoon, no formal piece of legislation had been introduced and no decisions had been made as to whether the GOP’s funding proposal and its separate policy provisions would be contained in one package or two.

Appropriations Democrats had not even been briefed on the details of a spending package, according to a Democratic committee aide.

Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told reporters: “When the leadership lays out the plans for timing of what we do, we’ll be ready. … It’s pretty close to being ready.”

Meanwhile, a sizable number of rank-and-file Republicans said Wednesday that doing nothing at all would be better than passing legislation the Democrat-controlled Senate would likely make more lenient on undocumented immigrants — or that Obama would just ignore like he has, they say, with other laws on the books.

“We like her ideas,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La., of the recommendations put forth by Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chairwoman of the specially appointed GOP working group tasked with coming up with the border recommendations. “The problem is, if we pass them, they’ll be gone.” Full story

Cruz Meets With Conservatives to Discuss Border Crisis (Updated)

BtOrPguIUAAp6VE Cruz Meets With Conservatives to Discuss Border Crisis (Updated)

Cruz talks border crisis over breakfast. (Photo from @RepJeffDuncan’s Twitter feed.)

Updated 1:23 p.m. | Sen. Ted Cruz once again met with a group of the House’s most conservative lawmakers Wednesday morning to discuss potential legislative responses to the flood of children crossing the border.

Cruz met with “more than 20″ House Republicans Wednesday morning, according to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to discuss a supplemental package meant to address the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border. “I didn’t have a hard count, but I know that it was more than 20,” King said.

According to the Iowa Republican, lawmakers had breakfast and listened to Cruz’s take on the crisis.

“The main agenda was to hear from Ted Cruz and his perspective on immigration,” King said. “And then many people around the table weighed in and we had an open discussion.”

King noted that lawmakers didn’t know the exact details of the package at the time — Republicans learned more about it in conference Wednesday morning. But, in general, lawmakers seem concerned that whatever the House sends over to the Senate will be amended to not include changes to a 2008 human trafficking law. Republicans want the law changed to expedite the deportation of children from Central American countries who are coming to the United States in droves.

“There’s an understanding that whatever might go to the Senate will come back to us, if it comes back at all, and we would describe it as ‘terrible,’ King said. “And so, again, there’s no one who has explained how you can start something in the House and get it to the president’s desk and think that you’ve improved the situation when you have a president that, and, I think, a Harry Reid in the Senate — they don’t even want to amend the 2008 bill. They’re for what that’s causing.”

The group heard from a number of lawmakers, including Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who was considering offering his own fix for the border crisis. Following the border working group’s release of their suggestions, Salmon issued a statement signing off on their recommendations.

“The House will now take up these recommendations so that we can quickly send them to the Senate for a vote and to the President for implementation,” Salmon said. “I expect that whatever proposal we pass will remain fiscally responsible and not add to our deficit.”

The meeting was part of a regular breakfast with the Conservative Opportunity Society, of which King is the chairman.

Members met in the narrow Henry J. Hyde room of the Capitol, where a quote above the door from William Allen White reads: “Whoever is fighting for liberty is defending America.”

By Matt Fuller Posted at 12:09 p.m.
Immigration

July 22, 2014

4 Big Reasons Obama’s Border Funds Request Is in Trouble

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Granger is leading a GOP task force to make recommendations on the child migrant border surge (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The initial outcry in Washington over the scale and scope of the child migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border signaled this could be a moment for rare bipartisan action.

But as with most issues on Capitol Hill, hopes for cooperation soon dissipated with rancor and disagreements now boiling over between the parties — not to mention within Democrats’ and Republicans’ own ranks.

With just days left until the monthlong August recess, lawmakers seemed as far apart as ever Tuesday — the eve of a House Republican Conference meeting that could determine whether, and how, the chamber moves forward with legislation to fund additional resources at the border and various policy changes to stem the tide of the crisis.

Here are four of the biggest reasons that first glimmer of optimism Republicans and Democrats could cobble together a deal might ultimately have been misplaced.

First, for House Republicans, it’s still about immigration. Republican leaders might have hoped that a specially-appointed “working group” tasked with advising the conference on the border crisis would help focus the conversation on the matter at hand, rather than let it devolve into the loaded rhetoric of the immigration debate that has plagued the party for the past year and a half.

It has proved virtually impossible to separate the two issues, however, with tempers still flaring on a number of fronts — from the president’s alleged untrustworthiness to concerns that undocumented immigrants are running rampant on the taxpayer’s dime, and fear that passing a border funding bill that isn’t stringent enough could be perceived by the public as too lenient.

At least 33 House Republicans want Obama to end his executive action that grants stays of deportation for young people brought into the country illegally by their parents, hoping send a message to Central American countries that their children won’t get a free pass at the Southwest border. And the six Republican House members from Oklahoma don’t want any more unaccompanied minors shipped to holding facilities housed at the state’s Fort Sill army base.

There are even divisions within the seven-member House working group regarding just how far to go. The same day the members signed off on its report of recommendations to leadership, two of them — Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia and Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Carter of Texas — introduced their own bills addressing the border crisis that tack significantly further to the right. Spokesmen for the lawmakers said the measures were intended to compliment, not supplement, the task force’s work, but a lack of solidarity among seven, hand-picked members could serve as a harbinger for how hard it will be to build consensus with the larger, unwieldy Republican rank and file.

Second, House Democrats are confounded by a difficult choice. Republicans are united on one thing: Any funding bill that comes to the floor will contain policy riders, and one of those riders will be a revision to a 2008 trafficking law to expedite deportations of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border. Reality is sinking in among Democratic leaders that a condition of giving the president the money to stem the border crisis will be swallowing what for them is a bitter pill, one they say would strip children of key protections against exploitation and harm in their home countries.

Democratic leaders sense that a growing number of their members, particularly those who hail from the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses, are prepared to withhold their votes on those grounds, meaning they will have to either appeal to their members to hold their noses and vote “yes” or stand with them and vote “no.” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has already begun to harden her stance against changing the 2008 law after saying it wouldn’t be a “deal breaker” for her, though she still has not drawn a line in the sand regarding how she would vote if the language was included.

There could be practical consequences attached to not supporting the funding bill: Republicans could need Democratic votes to get the legislation over the finish line. But there could also be political consequences, with “no” votes opening Democrats up to criticism from Republicans that Pelosi and her party were in favor of the tweaks before they were against them, and that Democrats are turning away from their own party leadership. Speaker John A. Boehner seized upon that talking point Tuesday morning, suggesting in a statement that Democratic leaders’ waffling could jeopardize the entire effort.

Third, both parties are in for a challenging whip operation. If House Republicans want to pass a border funding package that could have some viability in the Senate, it’s going to have to be at least somewhat bipartisan, and they’re going to have to get Democratic votes. In that case, with Republicans on the right reluctant to support legislation that doesn’t contain red-meat policy provisions, and Democrats on the left unwilling to make compromises on changes to the trafficking law, leaders on both sides of the aisle are going to have to corral votes from middle. It’s likely Republicans will have to reach out to Democrats to make a deal, but Democrats won’t necessarily want to help, especially when there’s continued angst over riders and leaders could see an opening to extract compromises in exchange for their votes.

The challenge could be compounded by House GOP leadership’s current state of flux. Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia has been largely out of the loop since losing his June 10 primary — to an opponent who targeted Cantor’s support for an immigration overhaul, no less — and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, slated to replace Cantor on Aug. 1, has been basically working two jobs. The incoming whip, current Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, is also dealing with the transition.

A GOP leadership aide close to the whip operation insisted that McCarthy and Scalise are working double-duty in anticipation of their new roles, and said their collaboration and engagement on this particular issue leaves them well prepared to tackle the most ambitious of vote counts. It’s the Democrats’ indecision on where they stand, the aide said, that is making things complicated.

Fourth, the House is stymied by money and time. Republicans are in agreement that the president’s $3.7 billion ask is too high, but how much they want to cut is another sticking point. For some GOP lawmakers, no topline number will be fiscally prudent enough; others might quibble that too conservative a sum might not fund all of the necessarily priorities outlined by the working group.

There’s also the question of whether the funds will be offset or classified as “emergency,” per Obama’s request. Republicans would all prefer the funding to be paid for, even those who don’t insist on it — though there’s a substantial number of members who do. Members don’t, however, know where to find such offsets, with non-controversial savings hard to come by. Whether appropriators are able to present members with a viable option could determine whether the package has enough votes to advance.

All this is taking place as days left until the August recess are down to the single digits.

Should Congress fail to act now, it could pick things back up in September, but the legislative days then are numbered too, before members go off to campaign in advance of the midterms. Plus, they could find themselves consumed with another piece of pressing business: A deal to avoid a government shutdown at the end of that month.

 

Related:

The Other Side of the Border: CQ Roll Call’s Special Report from Guatemala

President’s Party Asks Why He’s Avoiding the Border

Obama ‘Happy to Consider’ Sending National Guard to Border to get Votes on Supplemental

A Tale of Two Congressional Visits to the Southwest Border

Obama Asking Congress for $4.3 Billion for Border Crisis, Wildfires

Alone, Illegal and Underage: The Child Migrant Crisis

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Johnson: Ignoring Border Crisis is Not an Option for Congress (Updated) (Video)

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Homeland Security Secretary Johnson says Congress can’t ignore the administration’s request for emergency funds on the border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 5:54 p.m. | “Doing nothing in Congress is not an option,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday, as the clock ticks down out for Congress to provide emergency funding to address the influx of migrant children at the Texas border.

Johnson echoed a warning that he stressed at a July 10 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, saying that the emergency funding from President Barack Obama is critical to addressing the crisis.

“At the current burn rate, given the capacity we’ve had to surge to deal with this issue, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will run out of money in August. Customs and Border Protection will run out of money in mid September,” Johnson said at a press conference at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters Tuesday afternoon. Full story

The Border Supplemental and ‘the Height of Irresponsibility’

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Hoyer said there should be no debate over caring for the migrant children detained on the Texas border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the August recess fast approaching and emergency funding to deal with the border crisis seemingly no closer to passage than it was a week ago, Democrats and Republicans are firing up a new round of the blame game.

Shortly after Speaker John A. Boehner pointed the finger at the White House and congressional Democrats for the lack of action on a spending package to address the sharp rise of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer redirected the blame right back at Republicans.

“I think it would be the height of irresponsibility to leave without addressing this humanitarian issue,” Hoyer said Tuesday during his weekly pen-and-pad briefing with reporters. Full story

Boehner Puts Onus on Democrats for Tenuous Status of Border Funding Bill

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Boehner says Democrats’ rejection of changes to 2008 trafficking law could complicate passage of border funding bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Republican Conference on Wednesday will hear task force recommendations on dealing with the surge of migrant children on the Texas border, Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday — but he cautioned that the president’s request for emergency funds will go nowhere if Democrats backpedal on support for expedited deportations.

“In order to resolve this crisis in a timely manner, however, the White House must engage both parties on constructive solutions,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “After first supporting common-sense changes to the 2008 law that is making it more difficult to resolve this crisis, the White House backpedaled and failed to include those changes in its formal request to Congress. Meanwhile, many Democrats in Congress have reversed themselves and now say no changes to the 2008 law are acceptable.

“As I said last week, I don’t believe the American people will support sending more money to the border unless both parties work together to address these policies and actually solve this problem,” he said.

“The lack of leadership from this White House, and President Obama’s refusal to stand up to critics in his own political party, are jeopardizing our ability to find common ground and help the kids who are caught in the middle of this crisis.” Full story

July 21, 2014

Oklahoma Republicans to Obama: No More Child Migrants at Fort Sill

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Seven Oklahoma Republicans, led by Sen. Inhofe, called for the administration to end its practice of detaining illegal immigrants at Fort Sill.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Oklahoma congressional delegation is proud of its Fort Sill Army Base, but that doesn’t mean it wants to play host to thousands more unaccompanied child migrants awaiting deportation proceedings.

On Monday, one of the state’s two GOP senators and all six Republican congressmen called on the Obama administration to reverse its decision to send up to 5,000 more “unaccompanied alien children,” or UAC, to the Lawton army base on top of the countless children already being held there. They also want the administration to rethink plans to keep Fort Sill an active detention center through January 2015. Full story

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