CHN: Immigration Bills Defeated in the House, as Judge Orders Reunification of Migrant Families

The House rejected two immigration bills opposed by advocates in the last two weeks. The more restrictive of the two bills, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), was considered by advocates to be extremely anti-immigrant. It would have made historic cuts to the number of immigrants, end the family-based immigration system and the diversity visa lottery, provide no path to citizenship for Dreamers (people who were brought to the U.S. as children), and make unlawful presence in the U.S. a criminal offense instead of a civil one, in addition to other harmful provisions. That bill failed 193-231, with 41 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition, on June 21. Some moderate Republicans had been working with their conservative counterparts on a second immigration bill that, while maintaining many of the harmful pieces of the Goodlatte bill, would create a new limited merit-based visa program for a small percentage of Dreamers. This bill was also defeated, 121-301 with 112 Republicans joining all Democrats is opposition, on June 27. According to Politico, some Republicans “feared backing a bill that could be tagged as “amnesty” by the right.”

Advocates had been supportive of efforts by Democrats and a number of Republicans in the House to take up four immigration bills, with one of the bills being a clean Dream Act to provide a pathway to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for Dreamers. However, signatures from 218 representatives were needed to force votes on four bills, and supporters were only able to secure 216 signatures.

Clearly responding to the groundswell of revulsion against its family separation policy, President Trump signed an Executive Order ending family separation at the border, but was unspecific about the process of reuniting children now placed apart from their parents; it sought to detain children with their parents indefinitely until their family case is decided. A federal judge on June 26 ordered the federal government to reunite migrant parents with children taken from them under the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance family separation policy. As reported by Politico, the judge ordered all children younger than 5 years of age returned to their parents within 14 days and all older children returned to their parents within 30 days. More than 2,000 children who were taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border remain separated. The judge also prohibited future family separations except it certain cases. However, a previous court ruling does not allow for children to be detained with their parents for more than 20 days. The Trump Administration and some in Congress are seeking to overturn that ruling. Thousands of advocates took to the streets in cities across the country on June 30 protesting the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance policy,” family separation and detention, and prosecution of those legally seeking asylum. Their rallying cry, among other messages, is that jailing families together is not the answer to family separation, and those seeking asylum should have their day in court.

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