Asylum Limits Added to Bill to End Shutdown Anger Democrats
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans inserted in their plan to end the government shutdown a provision that sets new asylum limits for Central American minors, making it more difficult to attract enough Democratic votes for the bill to pass.
A Senate bill introduced Monday and modeled on Trump’s Saturday proposal for ending the partial shutdown is under attack from immigration activists and Democrats, who say they expect to be able to block it from advancing. In addition to the new asylum limits, the measure also includes an extension of deportation protections for young undocumented “Dreamer” immigrants that Democrats argue cuts out many people who should qualify.
“The president and his team have tried to spin this proposal as a reasonable compromise with concessions to the Democrats,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Tuesday. “That defies credulity. Nothing, nothing could be further from the truth.”
The 1,301-page legislation includes a provision to ban nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras who are under 18 years old from eligibility for asylum unless they submit applications at a processing center in Central America. That means they cannot apply in the U.S. if they flee their home countries due to gang violence, as many have done.
As an olive branch to Democrats, the bill also includes provisional three-year work permits for young undocumented people currently enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and those who have Temporary Protected Status. Trump has sought to end those programs.
However, the new legislation would only apply the DACA extension to those young immigrants currently receiving protections, and not those who might be eligible to qualify, as would be allowed under a bipartisan proposal called the Bridge Act. The new legislation would leave out hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
Lawmakers are returning to Washington after a holiday weekend that started off with signs of incremental progress on ending the shutdown, but concluded with little accomplished. If the stalemate continues all week, many of the 800,000 federal workers going without pay will miss a second paycheck since funding ran out for about a quarter of the government just before Christmas.
In his remarks Saturday, Trump said his proposal would include "a new system to allow Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries," although he didn’t mention that they’d no longer be able to apply in the U.S.
"The lack of border control provides a gateway -- and a very wide and open gateway -- for criminals and gang members to enter the United States," Trump said.
Todd Schulte, who leads the pro-immigration group FWD.us, said the legislation allows U.S. authorities to immediately deport children who flee violence in Central American countries and reach the U.S.
Schulte said Trump “misled the public” with his remarks Saturday describing the bill and criticized the “massive restrictions to the asylum system."
The Supreme Court again took no action Monday on Trump’s bid to end deportation protections for those in the DACA program, which means it may stay in place at least until the end of the year.
The administration is challenging lower court rulings that are blocking Trump from rescinding DACA.
The Senate legislation, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said will get a vote this week, requires the support of at least seven Democrats to break a filibuster. Schumer indicated it won’t come close to that level of support as he and his allies oppose funding for a wall and have insisted that the government be opened before immigration negotiations take place.
One conservative Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, hasn’t had time to review the Senate measure and doesn’t have a position yet, according to his office.
McConnell called the White House plan a “bold, comprehensive” offer.
“It’s a strong proposal, it’s the only one on the table, and later this week we’ll vote on it,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
In the Democratic-led House, the plan also is running into tough resistance. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California, Democrat, is calling it a "non-starter."
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.