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Monday 15 October 2018

US government seeks to close immigration ‘loopholes’

Donald Trump also declared protections for so-called Dreamer immigrants ‘dead’.

Donald Trump's past calls to use the 'nuclear option' have been repeatedly dismissed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Niall Carson/PA)
Donald Trump's past calls to use the 'nuclear option' have been repeatedly dismissed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Niall Carson/PA)

By Jill Colvin, Associated Press

US government officials said they are crafting a new legislative package aimed at closing immigration “loopholes” following the president’s calls for Republican lawmakers to immediately pass a border bill using the “Nuclear Option if necessary” to muscle it through.

“As ridiculous as it sounds, the laws of our country do not easily allow us to send those crossing our Southern Border back where they came from.

“A whole big wasted procedure must take place. Mexico & Canada have tough immigration laws, whereas ours are an Obama joke. ACT CONGRESS!” Donald Trump wrote in a series of continual, sometimes-misleading tweets on Monday after a weekend in Florida with several immigration hardliners.

He also declared protections for so-called Dreamer immigrants “dead”, accused Democrats of allowing “open borders, drugs and crime” and warned Mexico to halt the passage of “caravans” of immigrants or risk retribution.

“Honduras, Mexico and many other countries that the U.S. is very generous to, sends many of their people to our country through our WEAK IMMIGRATION POLICIES,” he wrote.

“Caravans are heading here. Must pass tough laws and build the WALL.”

Mr Trump has been seething over immigration since realising the major spending bill he signed last month barely funds the “big, beautiful” border wall he has promised his supporters.

The 1.3 trillion US dollar (£920 billion) funding package included 1.6 billion dollars (£1.1 billion) in border wall spending, but much of that money can be used only to repair existing segments, not to build new sections.

Among the measures the administration is pursuing is ending special safeguards that prevent the immediate deportation of children arrested at the border and travelling alone.

Under current law, unaccompanied children from countries that do not border the US would be placed under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services and undergo often-lengthy deportation proceedings before an immigration judge instead of being deported.

The administration is also pushing Congress to terminate a 1997 court settlement that requires the government to release children from custody to parents, adult relatives or other caretakers as their cases make their way through immigration court.

Officials complain that many children never show up at their hearings.

The proposals appear the same as those included on a White House immigration wish list that was released in October but failed to gain traction during negotiations over the border wall.

Such proposals are likely to face opposition from moderate Republicans and Democrats going into the midterm elections.

Mr Trump spent much of the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort, having meals with his family, watching cable news shows and rubbing elbows with conservative commentators including Fox News host Sean Hannity, according to several club members.

Also spotted at the club were champion golfer Dustin Johnson, MyPillow maker Michael J Lindell, boxing promoter Don King and former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik.

Staffers with Mr Trump over the Easter holiday included policy adviser Stephen Miller, one of the chief architects of the administration’s anti-immigration policies

Mr Trump’s past calls to use the “nuclear option” – changing Senate procedure to require a simple majority of 51 votes to override a rule instead of 60 – have been repeatedly dismissed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who argues Republicans will welcome the filibuster if they return to being the Senate minority.

The current split is 51-49 favouring Republicans.

“Dreamer” immigrants are due to lose coverage under a programme that Mr Trump tried to eliminate.

Notably, his favoured solution for extending protections to them mustered only 39 votes in the Senate, meaning it could not have passed even with the nuclear option.

Press Association

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