What is at stake as the Supreme Court weighs the future of immigrant ‘Dreamers’

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide the legality of President Donald Trump’s decision to end a program offering work permits and deportation relief to immigrant “Dreamers” who came to the United States illegally as children.

Trump, a Republican, moved in 2017 to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. His administration argued the initiative of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama was unconstitutional and would not withstand legal challenges.

Several federal courts blocked Trump’s attempt to terminate the DACA program. The case went to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in November.

The decision will be one of the most-watched of Trump’s presidency. Here is what you need to know about it.

WHAT IS THE DACA PROGRAM?

Obama announced DACA in 2012 after more than a decade of failed efforts to pass legislation in the U.S. Congress that would have provided a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers.

The program offered unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States before age 16 the chance to obtain a work permit and a reprieve from imminent deportation.

Applicants were required to pass a criminal background check to ensure they had not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor. They needed to have completed high school, still be in school or have served in the U.S. military.

The Obama administration said the program would allow immigration officers to focus on higher-priority offenders. Critics called it an abuse of executive power.

WHO IS ENROLLED IN DACA?

About 649,000 people are enrolled, according to the most recent government data. Nine of 10 are immigrants born in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. More than half live in California, Texas, Illinois, New York and Florida.

The average age of DACA enrollees is 26, slightly more women than men, according to the latest statistics.

A 2017 analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Migration Policy Institute found the top occupations for immigrants in the program were food preparation and serving, sales, office and administrative support, and construction.

WHERE DO EMPLOYERS STAND?

Major U.S. companies support DACA and have hired work-eligible beneficiaries.

In an October brief in the Supreme Court case, 125 companies – including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Starbucks – said ending the program would “inflict serious harm” on employers, workers and the U.S. economy. They were joined by 18 major business associations.

DACA enrollees hold thousands of jobs in the medical field, a point backers have raised during the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Plaintiffs defending the program noted in a Supreme Court brief this month that 27,000 DACA recipients are healthcare workers including nurses, pharmacists and home care aides. Nearly 200 are medical students, residents and physicians, the brief said.

HOW WILL THE SUPREME COURT RULE?

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June, but could act sooner.

With five conservative justices and four liberals, the court appeared split along ideological lines during oral arguments in November. The conservative majority signaled support for Trump’s termination of the program while liberals said the move would destroy lives of DACA beneficiaries. [L2N27SOC7]

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF TRUMP IS ALLOWED TO END DACA?

The Trump administration has not said how it will proceed if the Supreme Court allows it to terminate the program.

However, a top U.S. immigration official told Reuters in December that DACA recipients ordered removed by an immigration judge would be subject to deportation. [L4N28L3OZ]

(Reporting by Ted Hesson, editing by Ross Colvin and David Gregorio)

Conservative Supreme Court justices lean toward Trump on ending immigrant program

Conservative Supreme Court justices lean toward Trump on ending immigrant program
By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared sympathetic to President Donald Trump’s effort to rescind a program that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children – dubbed “Dreamers” – part of his tough immigration policies.

Several of the five conservative justices appeared skeptical that courts can even review the Republican president’s 2017 plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which had been implemented in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama. Even if the court finds that it can be reviewed, conservative justices indicated they think Trump’s administration gave a reasonable explanation for its decision.

Liberal justices emphasized the large number of individuals, businesses and others that have relied on the program.

The court’s 5-4 conservative majority includes two justices – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – appointed by Trump.

The justices heard the administration’s appeals of lower court rulings in California, New York and the District of Columbia that blocked Trump’s move as unlawful and left DACA in place.

Trump’s administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he created DACA by executive action, bypassing Congress. Trump has made his hardline immigration policies – cracking down on legal and illegal immigration and pursuing construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border – a centerpiece of his presidency and 2020 re-election campaign.

Kavanaugh said there is no reason to think that the administration’s consideration of the impact its decision would have on individuals, when weighed against its contention that the DACA program was unlawful from the beginning, was anything other than a “considered decision.”

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts – who could be the pivotal vote in deciding the case – questioned whether there was much more that needed to be added to the administration’s rationale even if the court were to rule in favor of the challengers and send the issue back for further review.

The challengers who sued to stop Trump’s action included a collection of states such as California and New York, people currently protected by the program and civil rights groups.

Were the court to rule in favor of the challengers it would merely prolong the uncertainty for “Dreamers,” Gorsuch said.

“What good would another five years of litigation … serve?” Gorsuch asked.

DACA currently shields about 660,000 immigrants – mostly Hispanic young adults – from deportation and provides them work permits, though not a path to citizenship.

Much of the administration’s reasoning in trying to end DACA was based on then-Attorney General Jeff Session’s conclusion in 2017 that the program was unlawful.

Gorsuch pressed an attorney representing supporters of DACA about the limits on courts to second guess decisions by federal agencies that are within their discretion to make. Gorsuch also seemed skeptical that the administration had not adequately addressed its reasons for rescinding the program, as DACA advocates have argued.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor demanded that U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argued the case for the administration, identify whether the administration considered all the harm that ending the program would do, or if it was just a “choice to destroy lives.”

Francisco was repeatedly questioned as to why the administration has justified ending the program because of its purported unlawfulness instead of giving other reasons for why it wants to.

Toward the end of the argument Francisco pushed back, saying the administration was not trying to shirk responsibility for ending a popular program.

“We own this,” Francisco said, referring to Trump’s decision to kill DACA.

The lower courts ruled that Trump’s move to rescind DACA was likely “arbitrary and capricious” and violated a U.S. law called the Administrative Procedure Act.

The justices must determine whether administration officials failed to provide adequate reasons for the decision to end DACA. The initial memo rescinding DACA, the plaintiffs said, gave a “one-sentence explanation” and did not spell out why the administration believes the program is unlawful. The justices will also have to decide whether the administration’s action against DACA is even something courts can review.

Several hundred DACA supporters gathered outside the court on a gray and chilly Tuesday morning, chanting, banging drums and carrying signs that read “home is here” and “defend DACA.”

Anel Medina, a 28-year-old DACA enrollee and oncology nurse in Philadelphia, was among the demonstrators.

“It changed my life. I was able to get a job … finish nursing school,” said Medina, who was born in Mexico City and brought by her mother to the United States at age 5.

Medina said she was a college student and living without legal status when Obama launched DACA.

Graphic showing major cases currently before the Supreme Court: https://tmsnrt.rs/2mZn6MJ

‘A DEAL WILL BE MADE’

Trump has given mixed messages about the “Dreamers,” saying in 2017 that he has “a great love” for them even as he sought to kill a program that protected them from deportation. Ahead of the arguments on Tuesday, his tone was darker.

“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Immigrants who had been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor crimes were not eligible to apply to the DACA program and any DACA recipient can be stripped of the program’s protections and deported if they commit serious crimes.

Trump added, “If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!” Trump offered no details of any deal.

Trump previously has called on Congress to “advance responsible immigration reform” but never proposed a detailed replacement for DACA.

Obama created DACA to protect immigrants who as minors were brought into the United States illegally or overstayed a visa. Obama acted after Congress failed to pass a bipartisan immigration policy overhaul that would have provided a path to citizenship to these young immigrants.

The young people protected under DACA, Obama said, were raised and educated in the United States, grew up as Americans and often know little about their countries of origin.

The program, which allows eligible immigrants to obtain renewable two-year work permits, remains in effect for those already enrolled but the administration has refused to approve new applications.

The “Dreamers” moniker is based on the name of bipartisan legislation – never passed – called the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act that would have granted these young immigrants legal status.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Ted Hesson and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Will Dunham)

Trump says Congress would act if top court rejects ‘Dreamers’

By Susan Heavey and Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the U.S. Congress could step in to protect the immigrants known as “Dreamers” if the Supreme Court endorses his plan to end a program protecting hundreds of thousands of these young adults who were brought into the country illegally as children.

“Republicans and Democrats will have a deal to let them stay in our country, in very short order,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on Nov. 12 over Trump’s 2017 plan to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama in 2012. The immigrants protected under the program often are called “Dreamers.”

Trump and Congress have been unable to agree on legislation that would protect the “Dreamers,” with deep differences between the president’s fellow Republicans and Democratic lawmakers. The failure of Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration package is what prompted Obama to create DACA.

The DACA program currently shields about 700,000 immigrants, mostly Hispanic young adults, from deportation and provides them work permits, though not a path to citizenship.

Trump’s move to rescind DACA was blocked by lower courts.

A ruling by the Supreme Court is due by the end of June.

Trump said on Twitter that if the Supreme Court upholds DACA – which is not the legal question in the case before the justices – it would give the president “extraordinary powers.”

The Trump administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he bypassed Congress and created DACA.

Trump himself has sought to exercise broad presidential powers over immigration, including his travel ban on people entering the United States from several Muslim-majority countries. The Supreme Court upheld that policy in 2018, recognizing wide presidential authority in this area. Trump bypassed Congress in imposing the travel ban.

The legal question before the Supreme Court is whether Trump’s administration properly followed a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act in the president’s plan to end DACA. The Supreme Court does not have to decide whether the DACA program itself was lawful.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Alison Williams and Will Dunham)

Trump says no amnesty for ‘Dreamers,’ signals support in broader deal

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks on border security and the partial shutdown of the U.S. government in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Sunday his proposed immigration deal to end a 30-day partial government shutdown would not lead to amnesty for “Dreamers,” but he appeared to signal support for amnesty as part of a broader immigration agreement.

In a morning Twitter storm, Trump also said he would not seek the removal of millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States, while bashing House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for turning down an offer he made on Saturday, including for Dreamers, the immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3-year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else,” Trump said on Twitter.

“Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!”

The Dreamers are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Banners outside a Catholic church in New York's Queens borough express support for "Dreamer" immigrants in New York, U.S. January 20, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Zieminski

Banners outside a Catholic church in New York’s Queens borough express support for “Dreamer” immigrants in New York, U.S. January 20, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Zieminski

DACA was put in place under former President Barack Obama. The Trump administration said in September 2017 it would rescind DACA, but it remains in effect under court order.

Trump did not make clear what he was referring to regarding the 11 million people mentioned in his tweet. About 12 million people are living in the United States illegally, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates.

In a Saturday speech from the White House, Trump offered three years of protections for Dreamers and for holders of temporary protected status (TPS), another class of immigrants from designated countries affected by armed conflict, natural disaster or other strife.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell welcomed the plan as a “bold solution,” while a spokesman said McConnell would seek Senate passage of the proposal this week.

The legislation will include bills to fund government departments that have been closed during the shutdown, as well as some disaster aid and the president’s immigration proposal, a McConnell aide said. The plan will contain $12.7 billion in disaster aid, said another Senate source who asked not to be named.

But Trump’s amnesty tweet caught some Republicans off guard.

“I don’t know what the president’s calling amnesty,” Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, told ABC’s “This Week” program. “That’s a longer debate and obviously not something we can solve quickly.”

FILE PHOTO: A federal worker left unpaid or furloughed carries a free bag of groceries from Kraft Foods on the 27th day of the partial government shutdown in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

FILE PHOTO: A federal worker left unpaid or furloughed carries a free bag of groceries from Kraft Foods on the 27th day of the partial government shutdown in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Trump appeared to be responding to conservative critics who accused him of proposing amnesty and reneging on a campaign promise, which could alienate his right-wing base.

About one-quarter of the U.S. government shut down on Dec. 22 over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the border with Mexico, which Democrats have refused to consider. Some 800,000 federal workers have been ordered to stay home or work without pay during the shutdown.

The promise of a border wall was a mainstay of Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign. As a candidate, he said Mexico would pay for the barrier, but the Mexican government has refused.

The shutdown has caused widespread disruptions.

The Transportation Security Administration on Sunday reported an 8 percent national rate of unscheduled absences on Saturday, compared with 3 percent a year ago. More than 50,000 TSA officers are working without pay.

Some airports experienced longer wait times at security checkpoints, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport closed one of its checkpoints because of excessive absences.

‘STARTING POINT’

On Sunday, a day after Trump’s DACA proposal, there appeared to be signs of movement, even as Democrats insisted the government should reopen before proceeding with talks over border security.

“What the president proposed yesterday – increasing border security, looking at TPS, looking at the Dreamers – I’ll use that as a starting point. But you’ve got to start by reopening the government,” U.S. Senator Mark Warner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Warner, a Virginia Democrat, also said Congress should approve pay for federal workers affected by the shutdown before they miss another paycheck this week.

Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Democrats were not opposed to physical barriers on the southern border but that Trump’s changing position posed a problem for resolving the border security issue.

“I would not rule out a wall in certain instances,” Thompson said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

(Reporting by David Morgan in Washington; Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Susan Thomas and Peter Cooney)

U.S. wants ruling on ‘Dreamers’ in Supreme Court’s current term

A woman leaves the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York, August 15, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday it will ask the Supreme Court to intervene if an appellate court has not ruled by Oct. 31 on whether the Trump administration can end protections for “Dreamers” who are young immigrants in the country illegally.

In a letter to the clerk of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, a Justice Department lawyer said the action would be necessary to give the litigation a chance of being heard by the Supreme Court in its current term, which ends in June.

The case at issue was brought by the University of California and others challenging the administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program was adopted by the Obama administration in 2012 and has allowed 700,000 young immigrants to remain and work in the United States, although they do not have legal status.

A federal district court in California issued a nationwide injunction requiring the government to continue the program and process renewals for existing participants until a final ruling was made in the case.

The government maintains DACA is not legal and has sanctioned “an ongoing violation of federal law” by its participants. It appealed the injunction to the 9th Circuit, which heard arguments in the case on May 15 but has not yet issued a ruling.

“If this court’s decision is not issued promptly,” said the letter, “the Supreme Court would not be able to review the decision in the ordinary course until next term at the earliest.

It would be unusual for the Supreme Court to weigh in before the appeals court has ruled. In February, the Supreme Court declined to grant a previous petition asking it to review the lower court’s decision before the appeals court ruled.

The administration’s decision to end DACA sparked an outcry from immigration advocates, business groups, colleges and religious leaders, and was quickly challenged in the courts.

Other cases both challenging and supporting the government’s decision to end DACA are also working their way through the courts, making it almost certain that the Supreme Court will eventually decide the issue, unless Congress acts first.

Earlier this year, Congress tried and failed to pass legislation legalizing Dreamers.

Lawmakers may get another shot at the issue after the Nov. 6 congressional election. Congress will have to consider spending proposals, and some leading lawmakers have suggested that funds for a wall along the border with Mexico could be passed in conjunction with wider immigration reform.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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 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 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)

Senate Republican leader embraces Trump immigration plan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans on Tuesday turned up the heat on Democrats seeking protections for young “Dreamer” immigrants as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell embraced President Donald Trump’s demands for broad changes to the country’s immigration policies.

In announcing his support for legislation that would help immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children, McConnell also threw his weight behind building a U.S.-Mexico border wall and sharply curtailing visas for the parents and siblings of immigrants living in the United States legally.

“This proposal has my support and during this week of fair debate I believe it deserves support of every senator who’s ready to move beyond making points and actually making a law,” McConnell, a Republican, said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Even some Republicans, however, have expressed skepticism that such broad, fundamental changes in U.S. immigration law can pass the Senate by the Thursday deadline that No. 2 Republican Senator John Cornyn urged late on Monday.

Also on Monday, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who is leading the charge for Dreamers, told reporters that he thought early Senate votes on immigration legislation would begin with “expansive” measures that will fail to win the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles.

Then, Durbin said, senators will be forced to move “toward the center with a moderate approach.”

But at least for now, Republicans were holding a tough line. Republican Senator Tom Cotton, interviewed on Fox News, said Trump’s immigration plan “is not an opening bid for negotiations. It’s a best and final offer.”

That ran counter to statements Trump has made in recent days, including early on Tuesday in which he said in a tweet that “Negotiations on DACA have begun.”

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Democratic former President Barack Obama initiated in 2012 and which has allowed around 700,000 Dreamers to legally study and work in the United States temporarily. Last September, Trump announced he would terminate the program on March 5.

During testimony before the Senate Budget Committee on Monday, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said he thought that a deal on immigration legislation will be reached “and that we have full funding on the (border) wall” of $18 billion over two years.

Durbin and other Democrats have talked of the possibility of a bill that provides for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and additional border security, which could include the construction of more border fencing and other high-tech tools to deter illegal immigrants.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan, additional reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump signs deal to end brief government shutdown, increase U.S. spending

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walk to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., February 7, 2018.

By David Morgan, Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress ended a brief government shutdown on Friday by reaching a wide-ranging deal that is expected to push budget deficits into the $1 trillion-a-year zone.

The bill passed by a wide margin in the Senate and survived a rebellion of 67 conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives thanks to the support of some Democrats. Those conservatives were mainly angry about non-military spending increases.

President Donald Trump signed the measure into law on Friday morning, ending a government shutdown that began just after midnight, when Congress was still debating the budget deal.

It was the second shutdown this year under the Republican-controlled Congress and Trump, who played little role in attempts by party leaders this week to end months of fiscal squabbling.

The deal is the fifth temporary government funding measure for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and replenishes federal coffers until March 23, giving lawmakers more time to write a full-year budget.

It also extends the U.S. government’s borrowing authority until March 2019, sparing Washington politicians difficult votes on debt and deficits until after mid-term congressional elections in November.

Once known as the party of fiscal conservatives, the Republicans and Trump are now quickly expanding the U.S. budget deficit and its $20 trillion national debt. Their sweeping tax overhaul bill approved in December will add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.

Nearly $300 billion in new spending included in the bill approved on Friday will ensure the annual budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion in 2019, said the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a private fiscal policy watchdog group in Washington.

Friday’s budget deal allows for $165 billion in additional defense spending over two years that will help Trump deliver on his promise to rebuild the military.

That won over many Republicans but some were still furious over the $131 billion extra made available for non-military spending, including health and infrastructure.

None of the added spending will be offset by budget savings elsewhere or revenue increases, relying instead on government borrowing. There also is no offset reduction for nearly $90 billion in new disaster aid for U.S. states and territories ravaged by hurricanes or wildfires.

PRESSURE ON MARKETS

The brief shutdown in Washington came at a sensitive time for financial markets. Stocks plunged on Thursday on heavy volume, throwing off course a nearly nine-year bull run. The S&P 500 slumped 3.8 percent.

Markets barely flinched at the last shutdown in January, but that was before a dizzying selloff that started on Jan. 30 amid concerns about inflation and higher interest rates.

Republican Senator Rand Paul, objecting to deficit spending in the bill, engaged in a nine-hour, on-again, off-again protest and floor speech late on Thursday. He had harsh words for his own party.

“Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits,” he said. “I can’t … in good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits. Really who is to blame? Both parties.”

His dissent forced the brief government shutdown, underscoring the persistent inability of Congress and Trump to deal efficiently with Washington’s most basic fiscal obligation of keeping the government open.

“Republican majorities in the House and Senate have turned the process into an embarrassing spectacle, running from one crisis directly into the next,” said Democratic Representative Nita Lowey prior to the House vote.

Republican Representative Kristi Noem told Reuters she voted against the bill because it increases non-defense spending and raises the federal debt ceiling.

“To increase domestic spending and raise the debt ceiling was coupling two very bad policy decisions and with no reforms tied to it. It was very disappointing,” she said.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others in her party had opposed the bill because Republican House leaders would not guarantee her a debate later on steps to protect about 700,000 “Dreamer” immigrants from deportation.

These young people were brought illegally to the country as children years ago, mostly from Mexico. Trump said in September he would end by March 5 former Democratic President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects the Dreamers from deportation.

Trump urged Congress to act before then. Senate Republicans have pledged to hold a separate immigration debate this month.

House Speaker Paul Ryan had not offered Pelosi an equivalent promise in the House, although he said in a speech before the vote on Friday that he would push ahead for a deal.

“My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment,” he said. “We will solve this DACA problem.”

But Pelosi said Ryan’s words fell short, accusing him of not having “the courage to lift the shadow of fear from the lives of” Dreamers who face the prospect of deportation.

Minutes after midnight, when the short-lived shutdown began, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sent a notice to millions of federal employees telling them to check with their agencies on whether they should report to work on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Makini Brice, Katanga Johnson and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Bill Trott)