Trump Urges House Republicans to Pass ‘Strong’ Immigration Bill

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump urged House Republicans to pass an immigration bill headed for a vote on Wednesday even absent two provisions demanded by conservatives that were left out, leaving the measure on the brink of failure.

Republican lawmakers spent days working on a requirement for employers to check electronically the immigration status of workers and another provision to overhaul a guest-worker program for agriculture, but the latest version of the bill won’t include those components, according to a Republican involved in the negotiations who requested anonymity to discuss them.

An amendment to add those provisions to the bill was circulated among House Republicans on Tuesday, but some conservatives said the changes weren’t enough to win their votes. The measure was originally scheduled for a vote last week, but House Speaker Paul Ryan and his leadership team agreed to postpone action to give Republicans more time to work on the amendment that now won’t be included.

“House Republicans should pass the strong but fair immigration bill known as Goodlatte II, in their afternoon vote today, even though the Dems won’t let it pass in the Senate,” Trump wrote in all-capital letters on Twitter. “Passage will show that we want strong borders & security while the Dems want open borders = crime. Win!"

A different immigration bill favored by conservative Republicans failed on the floor last week.

The House probably will turn to narrower legislation that would address ways to prevent families from being separated when parents are detained after crossing the U.S. border. The Senate also is working on such a bill, but any action is likely to be weeks away. Congress is set to leave by Friday for a week-long July 4 holiday recess.

Family Separations

The congressional wrangling is unfolding amid the continuing chaos triggered by Trump’s decision to separate child migrants from parents crossing the border illegally and detain them indefinitely. Trump later reversed himself, and the White House has said it’s trying to reunite undocumented parents and children who’d been separated, although it’s unclear how quickly that process is moving.

A federal judge in California ordered the Trump administration late Tuesday to reunite immigrant children with their families and to refrain from separating them.

The House bill would attempt to address that issue while also providing money for Trump’s promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, tightening requirements for asylum seekers, eliminating the diversity visa lottery system and letting young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to apply for legal status.

Ryan, of Wisconsin, called the House measure a “great consensus bill” but has been downplaying its chances of passage. Ryan said Tuesday that if it doesn’t succeed, “then we’ll cross that bridge” to look at a more narrow proposal focused on keeping immigrant families together.

Alternative Bill

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington State Republican, said she is preparing to offer a bill addressing the family separations on Wednesday if the broader immigration measure fails.

In the Senate, there have been talks on a narrow immigration measure designed to curtail family separations at the border with Mexico. Yet a small group of Senate Judiciary Committee members who held a first bipartisan meeting late Monday said they didn’t anticipate any immediate agreement.

“Nothing is going to happen this week, we don’t think,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and a leader in the effort. The group must take some time to ensure that they are making changes to the immigration system for families so they can “straighten it out so it’s meaningful,” she added.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.