Uncertain Immigration Votes Set in House

Chances of either bill passing looked even slimmer after Trump tweeted Thursday morning

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., left, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., talk as they leave the House Republican Conference meeting on June 13. The House will consider a bill backed by Goodlatte on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After weeks of huddled negotiations, House Republicans on Thursday will attempt to bridge a longstanding intraparty divide and pass immigration legislation that would protect so-called Dreamers from deportation and bolster President Donald Trump’s enforcement and border security agenda.

The House will vote on two bills, both of which are long shots to pass given that no Democrats plan to support them and Republicans are split. The measures face crucial tests around lunchtime, when the House will vote on the rules for both. If Republicans don’t unite at least on those votes, one or both bills could die before coming up for a vote final passage.

The first bill, favored by conservatives, would grant legal status to Dreamers enrolled in the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while authorizing funds for Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall and cracking down on asylum seekers.

The second bill, the result of a compromise brokered by GOP leaders, includes many of the same enforcement provisions. But instead of granting Dreamers legal status, it would create a new merit-based visa program that Dreamers could obtain and use to gain eventual citizenship.

The chances that either bill can pass looked even worse after Trump tweeted Thursday morning that he didn’t see the point of even voting on them given that Senate Democrats can block most legislation from eventually reaching his desk.

Watch: Ryan Says He Doesn’t Know if an Immigration Bill Can Pass

“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct (which they feel is good for them in the Mid-Terms),” Trump tweeted before telling Republicans to do away with the legislative filibuster.

The tweet is likely to give already skeptical House GOP members even less incentive to support either bill. Trump has undercut past attempts by lawmakers to pass immigration legislation, including in February when he sunk a narrow compromise in the Senate that came within six votes of passing.

Thursday's votes will unfold against the backdrop of continued uproar over the administration’s practice of separating undocumented children and their parents at the border. Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that reversed the practice by ordering that the parents and the children be held together for the duration of criminal or civil immigration proceedings.

Republicans included a provision in the so-called compromise bill designed to keep families together while they remain in government custody, but Democrats and immigrant advocates have labeled it a red herring, arguing that it flies in the face of current law and would lead to indefinite detention of asylum-seekers.

Democrats have blasted both Republican bills in recent days, arguing the GOP is using Dreamers and migrant children as leverage to force through Trump’s deportation agenda. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the compromise bill “a cruel codification of President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda that abandons our nation’s heritage as a beacon of hope and opportunity.”

John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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