Congress’ Immigration Push Sputters as Guns Grab Attention

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s taken just two weeks for Washington’s immigration battle to fade from blistering to back-burner. Lawmakers now seem likely to do little or nothing this election year on an effort that’s been eclipsed by Congress’ new focus on guns, bloodied by Senate defeats and relegated to B-level urgency by a Supreme Court ruling.

Talks have gone dormant that sought a bipartisan package: A chance for citizenship for young immigrants brought to the country illegally and $25 billion for President Donald Trump to erect his treasured wall with Mexico. Even a proposal dangling modest wins for both sides — a three-year renewal of a program protecting hundreds of thousands of those young immigrants from deportation in exchange for a $7.6 billion down payment for the wall — seems a longshot.

“The prospects for immigration legislation, big or small, are very, very bleak,” concedes Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrants’ rights group.

Distrust between the two parties has intensified, with each suspecting the other of weaponizing the impasse to rouse loyal voters for November’s contest for congressional control. There are tactical rifts between Democrats and the coalition of liberal and immigrants’ rights organizations over how aggressively to force the issue, and differences between conservative organizations and some Republicans over the wisdom of even a narrow accord.

Looking to furnish political cover to rank-and-file Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., only want to consider immigration bills that have Trump’s support. Democrats say Trump’s portrayal of immigrants as threats who commit crimes and steal jobs, plus his vulgar references to their countries, shows he’s not serious about compromise — yet leaves him pivotal for any deal.

“There are certain people and certain countries that Donald Trump does not envision as part of America’s future,” said No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois. “Until the president and the Republicans in Congress believe that deporting the Dreamers is so much of a political negative that they must do something, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll move forward.”

By Associated press for WTOP
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