·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Senate’s Promised Immigration Debate Fizzles Out, Leaving Dreamers to Uncertainty

— February 15, 2018

A Senate endeavor to save Dreamers and solve the nation’s immigration crisis sputtered to an unsure end Thursday, leaving politicians and the president flustered.

According to, both a White House-backed plan and a bipartisan bill were defeated in the evening. While the effect was frustrating, the outcome ceased to surprise. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s immigration debate didn’t evolve into a truly collaborative effort, with legislators remaining either undecided or firmly entrenched along party lines.

A week’s worth of disappointment culminated in an embarrassing vote for President Donald Trump’s proposed compromise. The four-part immigration framework that would have granted legal status to over a million unauthorized aliens was soundly defeated, prevented from passing by a 39-60 margin.

A portion of metal fencing separating the United States and Mexico. Image via the Office of U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey.

Trump’s competition, the product of bipartisan talks, fell short at 54-45. Its failure was underlaid by a furious Oval Office campaign against it – President Trump threatened to veto the bill were it sent to his desk.

“I think it’s safe to say this has been a disappointing week,” McConnell (R-KY) said on the floor.

Both votes seemed primarily influenced by party politics, with “all but three” Democrats signing clamoring aboard the bipartisan bill.

The handful of supporters who approved of Trump’s plan included only a trio of liberal legislators, all of whom hail from predominately red states. To add to the president’s potential embarrassment, well over a dozen conservative senators abstained from adding their support.

If passed, Trump’s proposal would have granted legal status to 1.8 million illegal immigrants while making significant cuts to legal migration. One of the administration’s key priorities since last spring has been cutting down on the number of unskilled workers arriving on American shores. In addition to funding a border wall, the president also asked lawmakers to end the so-called “Green Card Lottery” and cull “chain migration,” limiting the latter to the spouses and minor children of current residents.

“The vote is proof that President Trump’s plan will never become law,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. “If he would stop torpedoing bipartisan efforts, a good bill would pass.”

Two other measures with narrow focuses were turned down, too.

Politico reports that an immigration plan sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE), which cut out the border wall in its entirety, burn out on a 52-47 vote. A sanctuary cities measure forwarded by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) lost 54-45.

McConnell and Schumer opened Thursday’s debates by hitting heavy across the political aisle, laying the blame for possible failure at one another’s feet.

“Remember – Democrats wanted this debate,” said McConnell on the Senate floor. “They shut down the federal government for 300 million Americans – unnecessarily – to guarantee we could have this debate at this time.”


McConnell’s immigration gamble

McConnell will allow immigration vote if senators strike a deal

Senate immigration debate ends in failure

Join the conversation!