Trump says he won’t sign House immigration compromise measure

House Immigration Bill seeks to end family separation at border. (Bloomberg pic)

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said Friday he won’t sign a House Republican immigration plan that would curb his administration’s widely criticized policy of separating children from parents seeking asylum at the US border.

The draft bill being circulated Thursday would provide money for Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and allow provisional legal status for young undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the US as children. Beneficiaries could apply for a new merit-based green card, a stepping stone to citizenship.

But many of the young immigrants, known as Dreamers, would face an uncertain road to permanent residency — a major sticking point for Democrats who want to guarantee them a path to becoming Americans. The measure isn’t guaranteed enough support from majority Republicans to pass the House without Democratic help.

The bill is the product of negotiation between GOP factions after moderate Republicans threatened to join Democrats in forcing votes on a series of immigration proposals, contending they wanted action on the issue before the November election. The GOP and Democratic petition stalled after House Speaker Paul Ryan agreed to start the new talks that excluded Democrats.

The compromise plan includes $23.4 billion for border security over eight years, including $16.6 billion for the wall. It’s expected to get a House vote next week, along with a more restrictive proposal sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.

In an impromptu media appearance at the White House Friday, Trump told reporters he was looking at both measures but that he “certainly won’t sign the more moderate one”.

The compromise bill would halt the separation of immigrant families seeking asylum at the border, which has been almost universally denounced as inhumane. It would do this by allowing children to stay with parents in the same detention facilities.

‘No From Me’
Democrats weren’t included in the drafting of the bill, and second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois said it would face united opposition in his chamber.

“Sounds like it will be a no from me,” said Democratic Representative Jose Serrano of New York after hearing the details.

The draft text includes one of Trump’s top priorities: cutting future legal immigration. It would eliminate US citizens’ ability to sponsor adult siblings and married children for permanent residency, which the president and his allies refer to as “chain migration.” Citizens would retain their ability to sponsor their parents for residency.

Democrats have previously expressed openness to limiting family-based immigration, but only alongside legalizing all of the roughly 11 million undocumented people in the US.

GOP Representative Joe Barton of Texas, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he is “predisposed “ to vote for the compromise bill. “I want to see a solution,” he said.

But GOP immigration hardliner Representative Steve King of Iowa said he opposes the measure.

“Voting for any amnesty for DACA recipients violates the rule of law,” King said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for the young undocumented immigrants.

The new permanent-residency green cards would be issued each year only if Congress releases money for Trump’s border wall.