Last-minute efforts to push through bipartisan immigration deal fail, dooming new reform effort

Washington – Negotiations in the Senate to forge a bipartisan compromise on US immigration and border policy failed to gain enough ground to pass before the end of this session of Congress, dooming a new effort to reform a system that hasn’t been updated in decades, congressional officials said. familiar with the matter told CBS News.

Sen. Kyrsten Cinema of Arizona, an independent until last week was Democrat and GOP Sen. North Carolina’s Thom Tillis had discussed a potential deal that would have included the legalization of a subset of the millions of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, as well as some measures to reduce illegal crossings along the US-Mexico border.

But Sinema and Tillis failed to strike a deal that could have secured the 60 votes needed in the equally divided Senate during the lame session, three congressional officials said, requesting anonymity to describe the outcome of the internal negotiations.

The long-running candidacy marks Congress’ latest failure to pass legislation to overhaul an immigration system it hasn’t significantly updated since the 1990s and which Democratic and Republican lawmakers say desperately needs reform.

The The inability to reach a deal in the lame session also dampens prospects for a bipartisan immigration deal in the near future, as Republican lawmakers will take control of the House in January and have pledged not to. grant “amnesty” to any group of unauthorized persons. immigrants.

One of the congressional aides familiar with the talks said there was not enough time for Sinema and Tillis to reach an agreement before the end of the year, especially given the ongoing efforts to pass government funding bills. The aide said a framework from the talks could form the basis of a bill in the next Congress.

In a meeting With Politico last week, Sinema said she and Tillis were working on “the most difficult political issue of all our careers”.

Talks between Sinema and Tillis have focused on providing a path to permanent legal status for “dreamers,” or unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children, a longstanding Democratic priority. They also sought to address Republican concerns about the unprecedented levels of border arrivals recorded over the past year.

According to people familiar with the negotiations, border-related items discussed in the talks included raising the salaries of Border Patrol agents and bolstering their ranks, providing additional funds to the Department of Homeland Security to detention centers and deportations and the enactment of additional penalties. .for immigrants who do not show up for their hearings.

Other proposals included the creation of processing centers to determine whether migrants have credible asylum claims and an expansion of Title 42 pandemic-related border restrictions, which have allowed the United States to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants for public health reasons since 2020. The policy, which prevents migrants from seeking asylum, is end the dec. 21 because of a court decision.

One of the reasons negotiators reached an impasse was the Republican demand to limit immigrant releases in the United States, including ending the Flores Accord, a court settlement that limits the detention of immigrants. migrant children, two congressional officials said.

While the talks between Cinema and Tillis have received expressions of support from moderate lawmakers and organizations, they have also drawn criticism from critics left and right.

Immigration extremists and some Republican lawmakers critical Dreamers’ legalization proposal, saying the United States should not grant “amnesty” to immigrants living in the United States without legal permission amid record immigrant arrivals along the southern border.

Progressive advocates and legislators, on the other hand, denounced border-related proposals, including the expansion of Title 42, claiming they would undermine the rights of asylum seekers.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who has previously offered bipartisan compromises on immigration, Told Reuters this week that the Cinema-Tillis talks were “going nowhere”.

For decades, Congress has been deadlocked on immigration issues, with major bipartisan efforts to change U.S. immigration laws failing in 2018, 2013 and 2007. The first bill to to legalize Dreamers, for example, was introduced more than two decades ago, in 2001.

Immigrant advocates have urged Congress to legalize this population amid legal challenges threatening the existence of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era policy that protects nearly 600 000 Dreamers of deportation and allows them to work in the United States. legally.

A Texas federal judge who previously found DACA to be illegal is expected to rule again on the legality of the program next year.


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