Pelosi: GOP bill moving 'wrong direction'

Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday signaled her party will not support a House immigration bill if it includes policy changes opposed by Democrats.

“What we’ve seen so far is going in the wrong direction,” she told reporters at her weekly press briefing. “If they want Democratic votes, it has to go more in the right direction.”

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Pelosi said Republicans are driving away Democrats by promising to reduce President Obama’s $3.7 billion request, and to add changes to a 2008 human trafficking law that are opposed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and many other Democrats.

“What they have said in their public statements is that they don’t want to do all that much money, and that they want to have legislation in there that is harmful to some of the children,” she said. “That sounds like an all Republican bill to me.”

Republicans have said they will not produce legislation authorizing Obama’s full funding request. They say the 2008 human trafficking law is incentivizing young immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to illegally cross the border.

The law grants asylum hearings to those young immigrants. Minors who come from Mexico or Canada, in contrast, can be sent back to their countries within 48 hours even after making an asylum request.

Pelosi suggested changing the law could hurt the children crossing the border. About 52,000 children through May had been apprehended crossing the border, a significant jump from previous years.

“You want to send the child back, barefoot and hungry? Or are we sending the child back to a situation where the resources in the bill allow for the reintegration of that child into society in a safe way?” she said.

Pelosi refused to completely rule out tweaks to the law, but said she believed the administration can expedite deportations without changing it if they are provided with enough resources to bring on additional judges and lawyers.

She also suggested changes to that law should be considered in the context of comprehensive immigration reform.

Both parties have said they would like to advance a border bill before they leave for the month-long August recess. But House Republicans have been slow to present their formal response and the Senate has yet to act as well, with just a handful of legislative days left before lawmakers leave town. 

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