Analysis: Deep GOP Rift on Immigration isn’t Easy to Fix

WASHINGTON — At first glance, the Republican Party’s latest bout of immigration infighting appears to orbit around one key disagreement: Should so-called Dreamers be given a path to citizenship?

Look a little closer, and it’s clear the rift goes far beyond Dreamers. What Republicans are struggling with is a fundamental dispute over the core values of the U.S. immigration system and who may benefit. And the same disagreements that have previously doomed the prospects of a deal threaten to do so again in this newest round of negotiations in the House.

“The future of legal immigration is the sticking point,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the center-right National Immigration Forum. “There’s a Republican in the White House who wants to end immigration to the United States as we know it. There is not a majority of Republicans in Congress who support that position.”

Flashback to February, when the Senate took up three immigration proposals, each of which sought to meet at least some of President Donald Trump’s required “four pillars” for a deal: a solution for thousands of Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children; a massive investment in border security, including full funding for a southern border wall; cuts to legal immigration; and the end of the diversity visa lottery program.

The proposal that most closely matched Trump’s vision, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, received by far the fewest votes. The most popular, which came within six votes of passage, would have dealt with only two of the four pillars: Dreamers and border security. In other words, it would not have made any lasting changes to policy on who can or cannot eventually become an American.

Trump torched the bipartisan Senate deal via a tweet, underscoring the administration’s commitment to wholesale changes to the immigration system.

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