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Republican-drafted immigration bill fails in the House as Congress prepares for holiday break

Rep. Jeff Denham
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) arrives at the Capitol on April 18, 2018.
(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted down a broad immigration bill negotiated by moderate and conservative Republicans, effectively killing chances for significant immigration legislation before the November midterm elections.

The bill, which failed by a margin of 121 to 301, would have attempted to resolve the child separation crisis at the Southwest border by allowing children to be held in detention along with their parents. The House failure gives lawmakers few options, and little time, to intervene before Congress adjourns Thursday for the July 4 recess.

The bill that was initially drafted to provide legal status to the “Dreamers” who were brought to the country illegally as children years ago. The bill also would have provided $25 billion to build President Trump’s long-sought wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and would have imposed steep cuts to legal immigration programs.

The House still may seek to pass a slimmed-down bill that only targets how families are treated after they are apprehended by immigration officers. But it’s unclear if it would pass, or if the Senate would take it up and give their approval.

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A federal judge in San Diego has ordered the Trump administration to reunite with their parents more than 2,000 migrant children now in detention over the next 30 days, but the Justice Department insisted Wednesday that Congress needs to do more to support the administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

The bill’s impending failure was evident Tuesday evening, when its lead sponsor, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), told reporters he would no longer agree to changes demanded by hard-line conservatives who wouldn’t commit to voting for the bill.

In the end, none of their requested changes — such as preventing Dreamers from eventually sponsoring the citizenship applications of their parents — were included in the proposed bill.

Republican leaders weren’t aiming for an immigration fight in an election year, but the issue was thrust upon them when Trump ordered the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September.

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Congress failed to reach a solution by his March deadline, leaving more than 800,000 people brought to the country illegally as children in limbo as the issue makes its way through the courts.

After the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy in May and began prosecuting all adults accused of crossing the border illegally, and separating them from their children, the House bill was also seen as a potential vehicle for a legislative fix for a 21-year-old court settlement limiting how long, and where, the government can detain migrant children.

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sarah.wire@latimes.com

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