Democrats are backing away from a pledge to force a vote this month over the fate of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, angering activists but probably averting the threat of a government shutdown at a critical moment in spending negotiations with Republicans and President Trump.
With a deadline of midnight Friday to pass spending legislation, dozens of Democrats had vowed to withhold support if Republicans refused to allow a vote on a measure, known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, that would allow roughly 1.2 million immigrants to stay legally in the United States.
Nevertheless, a group of vulnerable Democratic senators facing reelection in conservative states next year are unlikely to gathered the votes needed to block the spending bill.
Deal On DACA Program Expected in January
White House officials and top senators are preparing an immigration bill for January aimed at resolving the legal status of so-called “Dreamers.”
On Tuesday, White House chief of staff John Kelly met with nearly a dozen senators to discuss how much more of the U.S.-Mexico border Trump wants fenced in exchange for a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Politico reported. Kelly reportedly said the administration will also present a list of border security and other policy measures as part of a broader immigration deal.
Both the administration and congressional Republicans insist that any deal on DACA would have to be paired with immigration measures. Democrats are broadly willing to compromise as long as the suggestions are not too hardline. But the deal will likely have to wait until next year, despite pressure and even hunger strikes from progressive activists.
McConnell Pledges Immigration Vote in January, If Deal is Reached First
The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will hold a vote on immigration legislation, including border security and whether to extend the DACA program next month, but only if lawmakers can reach a deal before the end of January.
“There are bipartisan discussions in the Senate, involving the administration, about improving border security, interior enforcement and reforming important parts of our broken immigration system, including addressing the unlawfully established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program,” McConnell said in a statement.
“If negotiators reach an agreement on these matters by the end of January, I will bring it to the Senate floor for a free-standing vote,” he said.
Trump Immigration Policy Causes Rise in Human Smuggling at Border
Immigration and Customs Enforcement data show human smuggling has increased since the president ordered a crackdown on illegal immigration, and it even increased during the 2016 presidential campaign, as Trump was stumping on his anti-immigration platform.
People seeking to escape poverty and dangerous conditions in their homelands are increasingly hiring human smugglers to help usher them across the U.S. border and evade capture by the Trump administration’s immigration agents amid the president’s immigration crackdown. It’s common to see a rise in this alarming practice when a country enacts more aggressive immigration policies or threatens mass deportations.
“Smuggling is a reaction to border controls rather than a cause of migration in itself,” said a report by the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, a research center in the U.K. “Ironically, further toughening of border controls will therefore force migrants and refugees to take more risks and only increase their reliance on smugglers.”
Las Vegas Police Train for Immigration Work at Clark County Jail
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is training additional officers to act as immigration agents at the county detention center, the department said Tuesday in a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
Seven officers will be trained to participate in the controversial 287(g) program, as part-time relief for the four full-time officers who have been assigned to the program. Their training will be completed within the next year.
Metro’s 287(g) participation exists only in the Clark County Detention Center, meaning it doesn’t have officers partnered with ICE patrolling the streets for undocumented immigrants, officials said.
ICE Accused of Hiding Details of Immigration Prison Locations
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, working at the epicenter of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, has released incomplete data on its detention facilities that muddies the costs and the agency’s reliance on private contractors. A recent Homeland Security Department (DHS) inspector general’s report highlighted some of the health and safety issues.
The Detention Watch Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights, following years of litigation and Freedom of Information Act requests, in late November released a previously unpublished spreadsheet of 201 ICE facilities. They have housed, on average this year, 35,929 people, 73% of them in facilities run by contractors, the groups said.
The nonprofits’ analysis criticizes ICE’s signing of new contracts with private corrections companies that are “inconsistent” and “sloppy” in ways that allow conditions that can endanger detainees, such as providing unhealthy food and sanitation.
Trump Aims to Protect American Workers in Latest Slate of Immigration Regulations
The Trump administration is looking to shield American workers from competition by cheap foreign labor with several potential changes to the U.S. non-immigrant visa system.
In a slate of proposals published last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) introduced changes to visa regulations that would ensure only high-skilled foreigners are eligible for the H-1B visa program and, in certain cases, place tighter limits on the kinds of non-immigrant visa holders permitted to work in the U.S.
Of the numerous visa-related proposals, the one drawing the most attention is a plan to rescind an Obama-era rule that allows the spouses of H-1B holders to work in the U.S., as well. DHS is also proposing modifications to how H-1B visas are allocated and what constitutes a “specialty occupation” in the program. Both changes would potentially reduce the number of jobs that can be filled by H-1B visa holders.
Boulder Church Welcomes Peruvian Immigrant Seeking Sanctuary
Ingrid Latorre, 33, the Peruvian immigrant who took sanctuary at a Boulder church over the weekend, said being closer to her family will now allow her to focus on fighting her deportation order as she continues her battle to stay in the U.S. Latorre came to the United States when she was 17 but was issued a deportation order following a 2010 felony conviction for possessing falsified or stolen identification papers.
Latorre had recently been taking sanctuary at a church in Fort Collins, but said the church was too far away from her family in west Denver. She said it was particularly hard on her oldest son, who goes to school there. “It was a hardship being in Fort Collins away from my family,” she said. “Now, I can see them every day.”