Both sides of immigration fight unhappy with Senate debate

Both sides of immigration fight unhappy with Senate debate
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Neither side of the immigration debate is happy as the Senate enters its third formal day of debate on a replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Immigration hawks are angry that the Republicans’ starting volley in the Senate debate reallocates visas from the diversity lottery and family unification programs, rather than cutting legal immigration.

“There is a sense of frustration from a lot of people who supported President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE from the beginning of his campaign, and we’re very concerned about what we’re seeing in terms of immigration,” said Jenny Beth Martin, chairwoman of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.

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Hard-liners within the Senate say that the GOP proposal, based on the White House framework, is the furthest that Republicans are willing to compromise.

“The president’s framework bill is not an opening bid for negotiations. It’s a best and final offer,” Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonChuck Todd is dead wrong: Liberal bias defines modern journalism Ex-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis MORE (R-Ark.) said Tuesday on Fox News.

But progressives who see the wide-ranging bill as a non-starter are starting to grow impatient that their own, narrower proposal — restoring DACA-style protections for immigrants brought to the county illegally as children in exchange for border-security measures — isn’t getting a fair shake.

“Three amendments are potentially in the mix for consideration on Democratic side — all three are bipartisan, instructive on how willing Democrats are to try to find a solution,” said Marshall Fitz, managing director for immigration at the Emerson Collective, a progressive policy organization.

“None of the Republican amendments have the faintest veneer of bipartisanship,” he added.

Conservatives want the House to set the tone by passing Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteBottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE’s (R-Va.) hard-line immigration bill, then use the legislation to hammer Democratic senators up for reelection in states won by Trump.

Progressives want to take advantage of the Senate amendment process opened up by Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Trump takes two punches from GOP MORE (R-Ky.) to pass a bipartisan agreement that pairs relief for “Dreamers” with narrow border security provisions, putting pressure on Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (R-Wis.) and Trump to accept the Senate version.

But any bill that reaches the House floor will need support from at least half the House Republicans. It’s unlikely that any bill that could garner 60 votes in the Senate could make the House floor.

The left is blaming Ryan for the impasse, saying he’s too beholden to his party’s conservative wing.

“This could be done in 48 hours. The problem is Paul Ryan is an awful Speaker,” said Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoHouse Democrats introduce bill restoring voting provision after SCOTUS ruling Behind China's grand façade lies deep insecurity Hispanic Democrats launch new voter rights initiative MORE (D-Ariz.). “He has zero concept about how to control his own caucus, he has zero concept about how to push an agenda, and all he’s trying to do instead of actually legislate is really to save his ass.”

Democrats are getting some cover from their base, although progressive grass-roots organizers say they’ve already given up too much.

“The fact that Democrats went from a couple billion in border funding to all the way up to Trump’s [$25 billion] request is a pretty big stretch,” said Tyler Moran, managing director of D.C. Immigration Hub.

Despite Democratic border security concessions, the gap between the Goodlatte bill and the bipartisan Senate proposals is enormous.

But immigration hawks see the Goodlatte bill as a concession, too, since it would eventually provide legal status to roughly 800,000 DACA recipients.

Still, Goodlatte’s bill only grants limited three-year renewable residence permits to existing DACA recipients, rather than giving them a path to citizenship.

“The Goodlatte bill, as it currently stands, I don’t have a problem with any of the border security stuff,” said Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonRep. Ron Wright dies after contracting COVID-19 Biden's gain is Democratic baseball's loss with Cedric Richmond Bottom line MORE (R-Texas), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who said he supports a DACA fix. 

“I don’t think it’s fair to have them keep having to circle back every three years. It’s pretty hard to plan your life even if you’re 99 percent certain it’s an automatic renewal, that there’s the potential that three years from now you might not be renewed,” he added.

Barton said that 85 percent of Americans support a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

Still, the Senate bills that trade DACA for border security are unlikely to win approval from Trump’s base.

“I think there could be a compromise down the line,” said Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism for NumbersUSA, an organization that wants immigration numbers reduced. “But the chances of a compromise that I would be supportive of are slim to none.”

“That’s not something that we would support,” Chmielenski added. “If there’s going to be a compromise in the Senate, it looks like it would be one of those skinny proposals.”

The White House proposed a four-pillar approach last month, with DACA protections, border security provisions, and reforms to family unification and the diversity visa lottery.

“The president put on the table a responsible offer. There are reasons to not like it, there are reasons to support it and not support it,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartDefense contractors ramp up donations to GOP election objectors Bottom line GOP lawmakers ask Biden administration for guidance on reopening cruise industry MORE (R-Fla.), an experienced immigration negotiator.

“In essence, there’s an agreement to deal with four issues. Now, those four issues have a lot of latitude, you can go on one extreme to the other in each of those four issues, but that’s what the president put on the table,” he added.

Democrats consider the president’s proposal, introduced in the Senate by Republican Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection MORE (Iowa), John CornynJohn CornynSenate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division MORE (Texas), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordAbbott slams Ben & Jerry's for Palestine support: 'Disgraceful' Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Republican calls on Oklahoma to ban Ben & Jerry's MORE (Okla.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands GOP senator credits Sinema for infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (N.C.), David Perdue (Ga.), Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund MORE (Iowa), unnaceptable because of the way it handles those four issues, although it also offers legal status to 1.8 million Dreamers.

On family reunification, for example, the bill would limit Dreamers’ ability to sponsor their parents for some form of residence or deportation relief — effectively breaking up the families.

And the Senate process has angered activists on the left, since it includes proposals that don’t address the issue of Dreamers. Instead, some proposals have focused on issues like so-called sanctuary cities.

“If nothing passes, it’s because Trump is insisting on these poison pills and Republicans are failing to stand up to them,” said Moran, the D.C. Immigration Hub’s managing director.

But Martin, the Tea Party activist, said amnesty risks creating further incentives for illegal immigration.

“Congress is putting the cart before the horse,” she said. “They’re providing this legal status for them but putting into some future point border security.”