US Republicans unveil immigration bill, Trump demands wall funds
US President Donald Trump signs the Interdict Act into law, to provide Customs and Border Protection agents with the latest screening technology on the fight against the opioid crisis, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington D.C., on Wednesday
US Republican lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled an immigration package that would tighten border security, end chain migration and fund President Donald Trump's border wall, while shielding nearly a million so-called "Dreamers" from deportation.
The legislation was introduced just minutes after Trump said that any legislation that protects such undocumented immigrants would need to fund a wall along the US-Mexico border-one of the primary pledges of his 2016 presidential campaign.
"Any solution has to include the wall because without the wall, it all doesn't work," Trump told reporters at the White House.
"We need the wall for security. We need the wall for safety."
Congress is grappling with how to break an impasse over the "Dreamers"-immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, but were permitted to stay under Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Trump scrapped DACA last September, but left a six-month window for Congress to craft a solution by March, when thousands of immigrants would face deportation.
He met with two dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers Tuesday at the White House, urging them to craft a compromise that would accommodate the Dreamers but also achieve some immigration reforms.
"The president indicated that our bill, the Securing America's Future Act, is the starting point to correct the flaws in our immigration system," House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte told reporters.
"This bill funds the border wall and secures ports of entry along the southern border.
It also increases boots on the ground," limits immigrants from bringing family members into the country in the future, and ends the green card lottery system, he added.
But it also includes conservative priorities like cracking down on sanctuary cities, and provides no special pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
As lawmakers race against time to find a fix, a US judge late Tuesday blocked Trump from scrapping DACA and ordered it maintained "on a nationwide basis," as legal challenges against it proceed.
But the White House and Democrats agreed that the ruling does not diminish the urgent need to resolve the issue.
The Republican legislation is certain to antagonize Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who wants a narrowly crafted DACA bill that includes border security enhancements but no wall funding.
Goodlatte's bill, even if it passes the House, would have a harder time clearing the Senate, where it would need support from at least nine Democrats.
Schumer expressed support for a bipartisan group of senators working on a deal, and said it was crucial that any DACA agreement be part of a spending bill needed before a January 19 deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday blasted the federal court system as "broken and unfair" after a judge blocked his administration's move to end a programme protecting young immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents.
A U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco ruled late on Tuesday that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which Trump has said he will end, should remain in effect until legal challenges brought in multiple courts are resolved.
Under the administration's plan, the programme for young people commonly known as "Dreamers" would be phased out over a two-year period, beginning in March.
"It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) ... almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts," the Republican president wrote on Twitter.
The Justice Department said in a statement it "looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation."
But the administration did not immediately appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California. An appeal from that court would typically go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Some legal experts predicted the Trump administration would be successful if it appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December, the country's highest court granted an administration request to block an earlier Alsup order that called for the release of internal documents related to the government's DACA decision.
Several experts also said Tuesday's court ruling could complicate negotiations between congressional Democrats and Republicans trying to reach a deal to resolve the legal status of nearly 700,000 young immigrants covered by the programme, which allows them to live and work in the United States.
"The ruling could deflate the pressure on Congress to act in the next week and in our view there remains just as much urgency as ever for a lasting fix," said Michael Tan from the American Civil Liberties Union. Dreamers "don't need a protracted legal battle," he added.
At a White House meeting on Tuesday before the court ruling, Trump urged lawmakers to quickly reach a bipartisan DACA deal before moving on to even tougher negotiations on a comprehensive immigration bill.