Push for ‘Dreamer’ immigration bill gains steam in U.S. House of Representatives

Activists and DACA recipients march up Broadway during the start of their 'Walk to Stay Home,' a five-day 250-mile walk from New York to Washington D.C., to demand that Congress pass a Clean Dream Act, in Manhattan, New York, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday urged Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule debate on bills to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation, in a move aimed at reviving a push that sputtered in the Senate in February.

Backers said they had 240 House members on board so far pushing for debate of four different bills to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Republican President Donald Trump ended on March 5.

Under the House members’ plan, the measure with the most votes would win and be sent to the Senate. November’s congressional elections could contribute to an already difficult path, however.

The bill many lawmakers think is most popular was written by Republican Will Hurd and Democrat Peter Aguilar. It would protect “Dreamer” immigrants from deportation and strengthen border security, although not with a Southwest border wall Trump wants.

DACA, established in 2012 by Democratic then-President Barack Obama, protected illegal immigrants brought into the United States by their parents when they were children. Around 800,000 “Dreamers” have participated.

With Trump’s action, their legal status is in limbo pending the outcome of court battles.

Trump has urged Congress to write legislation giving these immigrants permanent protections, but he has failed to reach a compromise with Congress.

“It is time to have a full debate for the American public and have the entire country decide what border security should look like, what a permanent fix for Dreamers should look like,” said Republican Representative Jeff Denham, who represents a central California district with a large Hispanic population.

In 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton beat Trump in his district, leading to speculation that Denham, like Republicans in similar areas, could face a tough re-election.

At least 218 votes are needed in the 435-member House to pass legislation. With five vacancies, slightly fewer are necessary.

But there are difficulties, even with the 240 votes supporting this latest immigration push.

Only 50 of the House’s 237 Republicans are behind the effort so far, with nearly all 190 Democrats on board.

That presents political problems for Ryan and his leadership team, which bridles at passing legislation not backed by a majority of fellow Republicans.

Representative Linda Sanchez, a member of House Democratic leadership, told reporters that a bill to take care of Dreamers could pass the House if Ryan allowed it, but that opponents were blocking a debate.

“One hundred of the most conservative members in that (Republican) caucus are making policy for the rest of the United States,” Sanchez said.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Trump, stymied on wall, to send troops to U.S.-Mexico border

Border patrol agents apprehend people who illegally crossed the border from Mexico into the U.S. in the Rio Grande Valley sector, near Falfurrias, Texas, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump, unable to get the U.S. Congress or Mexico to fully fund his border wall, will post National Guard troops along the Mexican frontier, officials said on Wednesday, in a move that was likely to escalate tensions with a key U.S. ally.

The Trump administration was working with the governors of the four southwestern U.S. states along the border to deploy the Guard, said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, adding that the troops would not be involved in law enforcement.

In a supporting role, possibly for aerial reconnaissance, the Guard will help U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel with stopping illegal immigrants from entering the country, Nielsen said at a White House briefing with reporters.

In a memorandum laying out the new initiative, Trump directed Defense Secretary James Mattis to request the use of National Guard personnel to help the Department of Homeland Security in securing the southern border.

He ordered Mattis, Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to submit a report within 30 days detailing an action plan and recommendations for any other executive authorities to be invoked to protect the border.

The administration’s move drew criticism from Democrats. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado said Trump has failed to engage with lawmakers on bipartisan immigration reform that would satisfy both parties’ agendas on the volatile issue.

“Unfortunately, the president failed to lead, and rather than find real solutions on immigration, he continues to stoke fear,” Bennet said in a statement.

The Mexican government has told the United States that “if the announced deployment of the National Guard turned into a militarization of the border, that would gravely damage the bilateral relationship,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said.

It said Nielsen discussed the planned National Guard deployment with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray on Wednesday and told him the troops will not carry arms.

In keeping with a theme he often invoked as a candidate in 2016 and has continually returned to since taking office, Republican Trump has sharpened his anti-immigrant rhetoric, warning that illegal immigrants threaten U.S. safety and jobs.

His plan to deploy troops comes after his failure so far to persuade either the Mexican government or the U.S. Congress to fully fund a wall he wants to build along the border.

At the same time, the Republican-controlled Congress has failed to meaningfully overhaul U.S. immigration law, despite demands from Trump for a deal. With campaigning by lawmakers for November’s midterm congressional elections getting under way, little legislative action was expected in months ahead.

The National Guard is a reserve wing of the U.S. armed forces that is partially under the authority of governors.

Trump’s plans were hailed as welcome and needed by the Republican governors of Arizona and Texas.

The California National Guard will promptly review Trump’s request “to determine how best we can assist our federal partners,” said a spokesman for the state’s unit in a statement. He added he was speaking for Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

A general view shows San Diego, U.S. and Tijuana, Mexico (R) in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

A general view shows San Diego, U.S. and Tijuana, Mexico (R) in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

WALL ON BASES?

Trump last month signed a federal spending bill that contained $1.6 billion to pay for six months of work on his wall. He had asked for $25 billion for it.

Nielsen told reporters the administration was looking into possibly constructing some wall on border land owned by the U.S. military.

After Nielsen spoke, a senior administration official said, “We expect personnel to be on the border quickly but at this time we don’t have a date, but that will be coming soon.”

Many National Guard personnel are federally funded and can be put under the direction of Washington when they are carrying out federal missions. There are thousands of U.S. National Guard now serving on federal missions, including in Afghanistan.

Nielsen did not give details on the number of the troops to be deployed to the border or the cost of the operation.

She said the administration had drafted legislation and would be asking Congress to provide the legal authority and resources to address “this crisis at our borders.” She said the Guard could conduct aerial surveillance along the border.

Nielsen said that despite steps taken by the administration, drug smuggling, illegal immigration and dangerous gang activity across the border were at unacceptable levels.

“Until we can have a wall and proper security we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, lamenting what he called “horrible” U.S. laws that left the border poorly protected.

On Wednesday, he said in a tweet: “Our Border Laws are very weak while those of Mexico and Canada are very strong. Congress must change these Obama era, and other, laws NOW!”

While the Trump administration speaks of an immigration “crisis” on the border, U.S. Border Patrol statistics show the fewest apprehensions of illegal immigrants on the border in 46 years. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2017, there were 303,916 such arrests, the lowest level since fiscal 1971.

Under Republican President George W. Bush, the National Guard between 2006 and 2008 provided border-related intelligence analysis, but had no direct law enforcement role.

In 2010, President Barack Obama sent National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexican border to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to U.S. Border Patrol agents.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Richard Cowan and Phil Stewart in Washington, Ben Klayman in Chicago and Julia Love in Mexico City; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Sandra Maler)

Trump threatens aid for Honduras, other nations over ‘caravan’

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for the Easter service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 1, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday U.S. foreign aid to Honduras and other countries was at risk unless they stop a so-called caravan of more than 1,200 Central American migrants headed to the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump’s latest salvo against the migrants’ journey comes as the president has stepped up his immigration rhetoric in recent days and his administration has moved to further crack down on people who are in the United States illegally.

The migrants’ 2,000-mile (3,200-km) journey from the Mexico-Guatemalan border is expected to end at the U.S. border. Mexico’s government has said such caravans of mostly Central Americans, including many escaping violence in Honduras, have occurred since 2010.

Trump has already blasted Mexico and threatened to upend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) over the caravan, and on Tuesday also raised the prospect of withholding U.S. assistance. The current trip has also put pressure on Mexican authorities ahead of the July 1 presidential election there.

“The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!” Trump wrote in an early morning post on Twitter.

On Monday, the Republican president railed against Democrats over immigration and again pressed U.S. lawmakers to pass legislation to build his long-promised border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Despite months of efforts, no immigration deal has emerged in the Republican-led Congress, where lawmakers are not expected to pass much major legislation ahead of November’s midterm congressional elections.

(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Trump signs budget deal after raising government shutdown threat

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks, as he stands next to Congress' $1.3 trillion spending bill, during a signing ceremony, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Steve Holland and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump signed Congress’ newly passed $1.3 trillion budget bill on Friday, ending several hours of confusion spurred by a tweeted veto threat that raised the specter of a government shutdown.

Trump said he had signed the bill, despite his qualms on some issues, because a $60 billion increase in military spending had convinced him it was a worthwhile compromise.

“But I say to Congress I will never sign another bill like this again,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to do it again.”

White House and Capitol Hill aides had been left scrambling earlier in the day after Trump criticized the six-month spending bill, despite prior assurances from the administration that he would sign it ahead of a looming midnight deadline.

“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,” Trump wrote on Twitter at 9 a.m. EDT.

But by early afternoon, he appeared before reporters in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House to announce he had signed the measure.

“There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill,” he said, patting the more than 2,000 pages of the legislation stacked on a purple box beside him.

It was unclear how seriously Republican leaders took Trump’s shutdown threat. Neither Speaker Paul Ryan nor Senate Leader Mitch McConnell commented publicly on it.

Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Senate and House of Representatives had already left Washington for a scheduled two-week spring recess, and Trump himself was scheduled on Friday to fly to Florida for a weekend at his private resort.

IMMIGRATION CONCERNS

Trump has been frustrated that Congress has not turned over funding to make good on his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill includes $1.6 billion for six month’s of work on the project but he had sought $25 billion for it.

Trump also has been at odds with Democrats in Congress over the fate of Dreamer immigrants – those brought to the United States illegally when they were children.

Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that gives work permits to the Dreamers and protects them from deportation. The decision is currently tied up in court cases.

He offered to extend the protections, tied to a sweeping set of changes to immigration laws, but subsequently rejected bipartisan offers from lawmakers.

As the six-month spending budget deal was coming together, there had been reports Trump had balked at the bill and had to be persuaded by Ryan to support it.

The conservative wing of Trump’s party had panned the bill because of its spending increases and some deficit hawks cheered Trump’s Friday morning threat to veto it.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Steve Holland; additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Amanda Becker, Susan Heavey and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott)

Trump threatens to veto spending bill, raising government shutdown risk

The U.S. Capitol building is seen in Washington, U.S., February 8, 2018. REUTERS/ Leah M

By Richard Cowan and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump made a surprising threat to veto Congress’ newly passed $1.3 trillion spending bill, a move that raised the specter of a possible government shutdown ahead of a midnight Friday deadline to keep federal agencies open.

In a tweet on Friday morning Trump said he was displeased about immigration issues in the bill, even though the White House had given assurances on Thursday that he would sign it. Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives, which both are dominated by Trump’s fellow Republicans, had left Washington after passing the measure.

“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,” Trump wrote.

Trump has sought to make good on his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the bill includes $1.6 billion for six month’s of work on the project, although he had sought $25 billion for it. In a tweet on Thursday he had seemed not to have a problem with partial funding because “the rest will be forthcoming.”

Trump also has been at odds with Democrats in Congress over the fate of Dreamer immigrants – those brought to the United States illegally when they were children.

At the White House, many aides were caught by surprise by the veto threat and were scrambling for answers. There was no immediate explanation for what prompted the threat other than Trump’s frequent complaints that he felt Democrats were unwilling to move his way on immigration issues.

Trump appeared to have tweeted from the White House residence, as there is no Marine guard posted outside the door of the West Wing, which is what happens when the president is in the West Wing.

A White House official would say only that “it’s the president’s tweet” and could not answer further questions. Trump is scheduled to leave later in the day for a weekend at his private resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

There was no immediate comment from Republican leaders in Congress.

THREAT OR BLUFF?

As the six-month spending deal was coming together, there were reports Trump had balked at the deal and had to be persuaded by Republican Speaker Paul Ryan to support it.

Only minutes before Trump’s threat, Ryan had tweeted: “Our men and women in uniform have earned a pay raise. That’s why yesterday, we voted to provide the biggest pay raise for our troops in 8 years.”

Conservatives and deficit hawks in Trump’s party had panned the bill because of its spending increases. Some cheered his threat to veto it.

“Please do, Mr. President,” Republican Senator Bob Corker said on Twitter. “I am just down the street and will bring you a pen. The spending levels without any offsets are grotesque, throwing all of our children under the bus.”

Democratic lawmakers said Trump created his own crisis by canceling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that gives work permits to certain young immigrants and protects them from deportation. The decision is currently tied up in court cases.

Trump had agreed to extend the program if Congress agreed to sweeping changes in immigration laws and provided $25 billion to build the wall and increase border security. Democrats rejected the plan.

“NOW you care about the Dreamers Mr. President?” Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky said on Twitter. “Six months after throwing their lives into chaos? Is this a cruel joke?”

In a hastily arranged news conference on Thursday, Trump’s budget director and top legislative aide insisted he would sign the bill and tried to cast the $1.6 billion in funding for border security as a downpayment on Trump’s wall pledge.

“It does a lot of what we wanted – not everything we wanted – but a lot of what we wanted on immigration,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Steve Holland; additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Susan Heavey and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott)

Trump threatens to veto spending bill over DACA, border wall

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he was considering vetoing Congress’ $1.3 trillion spending bill over immigration issues, including full funding for his proposed border wall and young ‘Dreamer’ immigrants.

“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Justin Mitchell; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

U.S. spending bill tackles border, election security: source

FILE PHOTO: U.S. border patrol officers are pictured near a prototype for U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico, behind the current border fence in this picture taken from the Mexican side of the border in Tijuana, Mexico

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal government spending deal being worked out in the U.S. Congress includes additional funding to boost border security, protect the upcoming elections in November and rebuild aging infrastructure, a source familiar with the negotiations said on Wednesday.

While the source said a final overall spending agreement had not been reached, other Republican and Democratic congressional aides have told Reuters that leaders plan to unveil their agreement on the $1.3 trillion spending bill later on Wednesday.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Congress have until Friday night to reach a deal before a lapse would force federal agencies to suspend operations. The current plan would provide for government funding through Sept. 30, after a series of short-term funding measures implemented since last fall.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate said on Tuesday they were close to a deal and hoped to complete legislation by Friday as they worked to overcome divisions over several thorny issues such as President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

So far, the package provides $1.6 billion for some fencing along the U.S. border with Mexico and other technological border security efforts, the source said.

Trump had sought $25 billion for a full wall, but negotiations fell through to provide more money in exchange for protections for “Dreamers,” young adults who were brought illegally into the United States as children.

The spending plan also provides $307 million more than the Trump administration’s request for the FBI to counter Russian cyber attacks, and $380 million for U.S. states to improve their technology before November’s congressional election, according to the source.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia sought to meddle in the 2016 presidential election campaign, and intelligence chiefs said last month that Russia will seek to interfere in the midterm elections this year by using social media to spread propaganda and misleading reports. Russia has denied any interference.

The planned spending measure allocates $10 billion for spending on infrastructure such as highways, airports and railroads. It also includes money for the so-called Gateway rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey, the source said.

Trump has threatened to veto the bill if the Gateway project is included. While its funds remain, they are directed through the U.S. Department of Transportation, rather than provided directly, Politico reported.

Additionally, lawmakers’ added $2.8 billion to address opioid addiction, the source said.

One potential stumbling block includes gun-related provisions prompted by a mass shooting at a Florida high school on Feb. 14 that killed 17 students and faculty members. On Tuesday, as another shooting swept over a high school in Maryland, House Speaker Paul Ryan said lawmakers were still discussing a proposal to improve federal background checks for gun purchases.

Another issue tying up negotiations was tax treatment for grain co-ops versus corporate producers, according to Politico.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Bernadette Baum and Frances Kerry)

Congress struggles to meet deadline for government funding bill

People walk by the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress, facing a Friday midnight deadline, toiled on Monday to finish writing a $1.2 trillion bill to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, as several thorny issues lingered, including funding President Donald Trump’s border wall.

A range of other hot-button initiatives was also slowing the unveiling of legislation that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives had aimed to make public late on Monday.

Republican lawmakers exiting a private meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan said, for example, that there still was no decision on whether a couple of narrow, gun control-related measures could be inserted into the massive spending bill.

A Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, has given impetus to a bill that would improve background checks for gun sales and another that would spend money to help schools defend themselves against gun violence but without putting new limits on weapons sales.

Republican Representative Mike Simpson, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, noted there was Republican opposition to the gun measures unless other steps such as expanding gun owners’ rights to carry concealed weapons across state lines were also enacted.

Simpson and other lawmakers said they did not know the fate of a move to include around $1.6 billion in funding for the border wall with Mexico, which is opposed by many Democrats and some Republicans.

“Everything that was significant is a work in progress. There is nothing defined” yet, said Republican Representative Mark Meadows, who heads the right-wing House Freedom Caucus.

Talks were expected to go late into the night.

Lawmakers were hoping to pass the “omnibus” spending bill before the start on Saturday of a two-week spring break. Doing so would put an end for six months to the possibility of any more government shutdowns by funding federal agencies for the rest of this fiscal year.

The federal government was forced to close over a weekend in January because of a similar budget battle.

POLARIZING MEASURES BEING SHELVED

With government funding running out at week’s end, several contentious items were tentatively being killed off to help speed passage of a bill that will significantly increase U.S. defense spending as well as many non-defense programs.

Several Republican lawmakers said a move had failed to renew federal subsidies to health insurers, which would help make “Obamacare” more affordable for low-income people.

Attempts to bolster the Affordable Care Act appeared to have collapsed after Republicans insisted on language that would have placed abortion prohibitions on those insurance plans and Democrats refused to go along.

“The speaker (Ryan) just said it wasn’t in there,” Meadows told reporters.

Trump discontinued the subsidy payments last year.

Trump also has threatened to veto the bill if it contains federal payments for constructing a New York-New Jersey railroad tunnel project known as the Gateway Program. Lawmakers said congressional leaders were still arguing over that money.

Three Republican House members told reporters that a separate initiative to impose an internet sales tax also appeared to be doomed.

Simpson, asked whether there were worries that the House and Senate would be unable to approve the spending bill before existing agency funds run out, said: “There’s always worries about that.”

Republican leaders were hoping to hold the House debate and votes on Wednesday, giving the Senate a couple more days to do the same before the Friday deadline. But the House timetable might have to be delayed a day, some aides and lawmakers said.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Fight over U.S. spending bill rekindles immigration debate

FILE PHOTO: The United States Capitol Dome is seen before dawn in Washington March 22, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As another U.S. government funding deadline looms, a huge spending bill is ground zero in the latest battle between Republicans and Democrats in Congress over President Donald Trump’s push to toughen immigration policy.

Lawmakers have until March 23 to work out how to fund an array of government agencies for the next six months. But their behind-the-scenes negotiations are complicated by the immigration issue.

Republicans are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars more for the Department of Homeland Security to expand the number of beds for immigrant detainees and to hire more federal agents to patrol U.S. borders and the country’s interior.

That is aimed at finding and potentially deporting more illegal immigrants, a central pledge of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“If you increased the number of beds, the number of people detained in this country will likely be increased,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst for the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute.

She said that would help Trump carry out initiatives to expand detentions, including possibly those of children who are in the country illegally. For some immigrants, it could mean spending as long as two years in detention while their cases wind through an overburdened court system, instead of being under looser government controls during the process.

Congressional negotiators also are tussling over a Republican provision prohibiting the use of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement funds to facilitate abortions for immigrant detainees.

There is also a push for $1.6 billion to begin construction on a border wall, which Trump promised during his campaign would be paid for by Mexico – an unwilling partner in that pledge. That would be a down payment on a construction project likely to end up costing more than $18 billion.

During a visit to California on Tuesday, Trump inspected wall prototypes and urged Congress to fund it.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, an advocate for Trump’s immigration agenda, told reporters on Wednesday, “If there are additional appropriations added, I certainly would be supportive of that.”

Democrats, whose votes in the Republican-controlled Congress are likely needed to pass the trillion-dollar spending bill, are pushing back against a wall that they see as a waste of money.

A coalition of 83 Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American members of the House of Representatives wrote this week to congressional leaders urging them to also “reduce funding to DHS’s detention and deportation machine.”

Democratic Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told reporters: “It’s wasteful and it’s harmfully targeting and deporting non-criminal immigrants, separating families and terrorizing frankly whole communities.”

BATTLEGROUND

Appropriations bills in Congress are the lifeblood of Washington policymakers, providing the money to carry out their priorities.

Over the past several months, appropriations bills to fund an array of federal programs have been the battleground in which Trump and Congress fought over the future of young people brought to the country illegally as children.

That six-month skirmish ended last month with Congress unable to legislate new protection from deportation for 700,000 “Dreamers” after Trump ended an Obama-era program giving them temporary legal status. At one point, the standoff forced Washington into a three-day government shutdown in January when funding ran out.

This time, Republicans hope to get enough money to hire 500 more Customs and Border Protection agents and 1,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. That would be the start of an eventual increase of CBP’s workforce by 5,000 and ICE’s by 10,000.

Democrats have noted that the agencies are falling short in filling all positions Congress already has authorized.

Negotiators are expected to work through the weekend as House of Representatives leaders hope to unveil a bill early next week so it can be debated on the House floor by midweek, with a Senate vote by the March 23 deadline.

Failure to meet the deadline could result in the second partial government shutdown this year.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Caren Bohan, Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

U.N. chief warns of nightmare scenario if Israel, Hezbollah clash

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres gives a speech during a ceremony at Lisbon University where Guterres received his honoris causa degree, Portugal February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

LISBON (Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday he was worried about the possibility of a direct confrontation between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

Guterres said the latest signals from Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah showed the will to not let this happen but “sometimes a spark is enough to unleash this kind of a conflict”.

Hezbollah said last week it could act against Israeli oil facilities if necessary in an Lebanon-Israel offshore energy dispute. U.S. diplomats have been mediating between the two countries after a rise in tensions also involving a dispute over a border wall and Hezbollah’s growing arsenal.

“I am deeply worried about hard-to-foresee escalations in the whole region,” Guterres told reporters in his native Lisbon, also referring to Israel’s concerns about various militia groups in Syria approaching its borders.

“The worst nightmare would be if there is a direct confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah…the level of destruction in Lebanon would be absolutely devastating, so there are major points of concern around this situation.”

The powerful Shi’ite movement is part of Lebanon’s coalition government. Israel sees Hezbollah as the biggest security threat on its borders.

Hezbollah was formed in the 1980s as a resistance movement against Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. The two remain bitter enemies but there has been no major conflict between them since a month-long war in 2006.

(Reporting By Andrei Khalip; Editing by Angus MacSwan)