Senate Kicks off Immigration Debate

Protesters demonstrate in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals near Trump Tower in New York on Oct. 5 2017

The move to hold an unpredictable Senate debate next week fulfills the promise Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made on the Senate floor to end the last government shutdown in mid-January, when he pledged to hold a neutral debate on the immigration issue that was "fair to all sides".

Both Gardner and Bennet were committed Tuesday to passing legislation to protect DACA recipients and other Dreamers who never applied, but in statements, both were uncommitted to one single plan.

If senators can't even get the debate off the ground, however, there's little reason to believe a famously obstinate institution like Congress will solve a famously hard issue like immigration before March 5.

Different groups have been working to prepare legislation for the immigration effort, including the conservatives who worked off the White House framework and a group of bipartisan senators who have been meeting almost daily to try to reach agreement on the issue.

That, he pointedly said, would mean passage by the Senate and the House of a measure "which the president will sign".

Lawmakers begin a week of open-ended debate on immigration reform as the families of victims of illegal immigrants have their voices heard on the issue. The Senate is scheduled to recess next week.

On Tuesday evening, McConnell attempted to schedule a vote again, but was again blocked by Democrats.

In a show of bipartisan spirit Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, shared a stage in Louisville on Monday morning, days after finding consensus on a two-year budget deal.

Schumer later told reporters he did not want to move to the votes yet because Toomey's proposal is not related to the core immigration issues the Senate must grapple with soon, namely boarder security and protections for people who are in the country illegally after being brought to the United States as children.

In September, President Trump announced the elimination of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which protected some of these undocumented immigrants, also known as DREAMers, from deportation. The move gave Congress a March 5 deadline to create a legislative replacement for the program, but was nearly immediately challenged in court.

Late Sunday, a group of Republicans introduced a version of Trump's proposal on DACA as an amendment.

The president and many Republicans want to expand that to include the visa lottery, which they want to end, and also family migration, which they want to limit.

Several Democrats have said Trump's plan is dead on arrival because it would so dramatically curb legal immigration.

Mr. Schumer wants the legalization debate to encompass as many illegal immigrants as possible, but said he doesn't want to go beyond "border security" on the enforcement side, which is why he objected to votes on a sanctuary city crackdown earlier Tuesday. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) failed to get a broad agreement favored by the White House. No one is gonna get everything they want. "I don't think either of them will get large bipartisan support, but it will give us an idea of the parameters and can set us moving". "Whether they can stay in school, whether they can keep their jobs, whether they'll be separated from their families-these are as gut-wrenching as decisions in life as anyone might face, and I just don't know if we'll have 60 votes".

McConnell has said he will open up debate on immigration proposals - allowing Senators to vote on a wide spectrum of measures that would need to get 60 out of 100 votes to pass.

"Let me recount a little recent history that you're all familiar with", he said.

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