HOUSTON ( FOX 26) - The future of 1.8 million undocumented young people known as "Dreamers" remains in serious jeopardy as the Senate rejected 2 different bills this week and Texas Senator Ted Cruz drew headlines by warning members of his own party that Republicans would lose control of Congress if any type of amnesty for dreamers is approved.
This week's panel: Jared Woodfill - conservative activist, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Marcus Davis - host of "Sunday Morning Live", Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor, and Jessica Colon - Republican strategist., join Greg Groogan in an ongoing discussion about immigration in the United States
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump is still trying to pressure Congress to pass immigration legislation by March 5. Thanks to the federal courts, the impact of his deadline is less threatening than it was originally, at least for now.
The Senate on Thursday rejected competing bills protecting "Dreamers," a sign of how difficult it will be for lawmakers to pass legislation in this election year, let alone by March 5, that would protect the young immigrants from deportation.
A look at that date's significance and what's facing hundreds of thousands of Dreamers wondering what comes next:
In September, Trump said he was ending President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. He said Obama had exceeded his executive powers when he created DACA.
Yet Trump also gave lawmakers until March 5 to send him legislation renewing the program, which at last count gives 690,000 Dreamers the temporary ability to live and work in the U.S. Dreamers are younger immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children.
COURTS STEP IN
In recent weeks, federal judges in San Francisco and New York have made Trump's deadline temporarily moot.
They've issued injunctions ordering the Trump administration to keep DACA in place while courts consider legal challenges to Trump's termination of the program. The judicial process could take months.
The administration is fighting the judges' rulings. Yet it has not tried to block the injunctions that force it to continue operating the program.
THE ADMINISTRATION'S MOVES
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has said it is still accepting applications to renew DACA status for people whose two-year eligibility expires. That includes renewals for applicants whose permits expire after March 5.
But top administration officials have sent mixed messages about what will happen after March 5.
Trump has said he has the right to push the deadline later and might be willing to do that. But Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has described that as possibly unconstitutional.
White House chief of staff John Kelly has said Trump won't extend the March 5 date. He's also said the government won't start deporting Dreamers who don't have criminal records on that date, saying, "They are not a priority for deportation."
And while Trump has offered legislation giving 1.8 million Dreamers a chance for citizenship, he's attached strings most Democrats aren't accepting. Those include an immediate $25 billion to build his proposed border wall with Mexico, reducing the relatives Dreamers could sponsor for citizenship and ending a lottery that distributes visas to people from countries with few U.S. immigrants.
The Senate decisively rejected that plan on Thursday.
SO FOR NOW ...
Until the Supreme Court rules definitively on the case, Congress is feeling less pressure to act quickly. And Dreamers can continue renewing their status.
But there's a catch. While the lower courts' rulings allow recipients to reapply for DACA protections, those applications take months to adjudicate. During that time, applicants aren't allowed to work and could be detained and put in deportation proceedings.
Thousands of DACA recipients have already lost protections and work authorization since Trump announced his decision September 5. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute has estimated an average of 915 people would lose DACA protections daily after March 5.
CONGRESS TO THE RESCUE?
That's hard to imagine, since the Senate decisively rejected Trump's and other bills Thursday protecting Dreamers and taking other immigration steps. House leaders still haven't lined up enough support to pass their own legislation.
One possibility: A measure that would extend DACA for a year and give Trump a year's worth of money for his wall. That might end up in a bill financing government agencies that Congress plans to consider by late March.
WASHINGTON (AP) - As badly as things have gone for immigration legislation in the Senate, it's not looking any easier in the more conservative House.
Republican leaders there are scrambling to find enough GOP votes to pass a measure that's even more restrictive than a proposal by President Donald Trump that flopped spectacularly in the Senate on Thursday. Compounding those divisions are pressures from some of the House's most conservative members, who are casting the effort as a pivotal test for Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
"It is a, the, defining moment for this speaker," said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. who leads the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, which helped force former Speaker John Boehner from his job in 2015. "If he gets it wrong, it will have consequences for him but it will also have consequences for the rest of the Republican Party."
Ryan aides did not respond to a request for comment on Meadows' remark. But underscoring party rifts, some Republicans defended the speaker and his work on the issue.
"Any time you allow one member or a small group of members to dictate overall policy for the country, it is an unfair scenario," Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., who's opposing the conservative legislation, said Friday. "I just don't think our speaker's going to give into any type of threats."
Even if House leaders manage to push the measure through their chamber, it would be dead on arrival in the closely divided Senate. Democrats there could ensure its demise because any immigration measure would need 60 votes to survive, meaning bipartisan agreement is mandatory.
All of that underscores how unlikely it is that Congress will approve sweeping election-year legislation on the subject, including something to help young "Dreamer" immigrants stay in the U.S.
The divisions bode poorly for a bill by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, that conservatives back and leaders have said they'd try bringing to a House vote.
The measure would provide only temporary protections for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children who still lack permanent authority to live in this country. Trump offered a chance for citizenship for 1.8 million of them.
The bill would provide money for the border wall with Mexico that Trump wants. And like Trump's plan, it would limit the relatives that legal immigrants could sponsor for citizenship and end a lottery that distributes visas to people from diverse countries.
But it goes further.
It reduces legal immigration by about 25 percent annually and requires employers to use the online E-Verify program to validate that their workers are legal. It withholds federal grants from "sanctuary cities" that don't help federal agents catch immigrants in the U.S. illegally and would make it easier to deport immigrants in the country illegally who are gang members or have been arrested repeatedly for drunk driving.
House Democrats uniformly oppose the proposal. So to succeed Republicans must supply 216 votes - a simple majority in a chamber with four vacant seats.
The bill has been embraced by the White House, but GOP leaders are encountering opposition from suburban moderates who consider the bill too harsh and whose voters could punish them in this fall's elections. In addition, Republicans from districts that rely on seasonal foreign agriculture or tourism workers say its visa standards are too restrictive, while some conservatives say it's too lenient and shouldn't help Dreamers.
"That bill is a dead man walking," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., who predicted its defeat should a vote occur. "It's designed to appease fringe elements in our society," he said, citing its failure to establish a citizenship process for Dreamers and other restrictions.
GOP leaders have said they'll hold a roll call once the measure has enough votes to pass, and haven't ruled out making changes to win support. The earliest possible vote would be after Congress returns from next week's recess.
Meadows said Friday that despite the Senate's stalemate over immigration, "It is critically important that we demonstrate a conservative solution" that protects Dreamers from deportation. He said he believed that Trump's support for immigration legislation would eventually result in "more concessions" from senators.
There are other House immigration bills, including a compromise measure by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., that resembles one measure the Senate rejected Thursday. Ryan is considered unlikely to bring immigration legislation to the floor not backed by most Republicans.
One possible fallback is temporarily extending Dreamers' protections for a year in exchange for some money for border security.
"I think we'll address the issue at some point in some way," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told a reporter Friday when asked about the possibility of such a temporary extension.
Dreamers, brought to the U.S. illegally as children, have temporary protection under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Trump said in September he's ending the program but gave Congress until March 5 to revive it, though federal courts have temporarily required him to continue its protections.