Trump urges delay in immigration legislation until after November

In midst of public outrage over children at border, US president sends mixed messages

US president Donald Trump: “We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!” Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

US president Donald Trump: “We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!” Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

 

US president Donald Trump urged Republican lawmakers on Friday to drop their efforts to pass comprehensive immigration legislation until after the November elections, sending mixed signals to his party amid an ongoing crisis over his border policies.

Mr Trump, faced with a public outcry over his policy that separated children from their migrant parents at the US border with Mexico, has gone back and forth on ways to solve the country’s immigration problems, which he blames on Democrats.

He is hoping to galvanise support from his base for mid-term elections that could swing the balance of power on Capitol Hill. “Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive immigration Bills anywhere in the world,” Mr Trump said on Twitter.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!” he said.

All 435 House seats and a third of the 100-member Senate will be up for grabs in November. Democrats are hoping discontent with Mr Trump’s policies, including on immigration, will help them pick up the 23 seats needed to recapture a majority in the House.

Their task is more daunting in the Senate, where they need to pick up only two seats for a majority but are defending 26 seats to just nine held by Republicans.

Separation from families

Mr Trump bowed to intense pressure on Wednesday and signed an order ending the separation of children from their families while parents are prosecuted for crossing the border illegally, which had caused uproar at home and abroad. He said then he wanted Congress to pass a more comprehensive immigration Bill.

The House on Thursday rejected a Bill favoured by conservatives that would have halted the practice of splitting up families and addressed a range of other immigration issues. The Bill was defeated in a 231-193 vote, with 41 Republicans joining the opposition. The House also postponed, likely until next week, a vote on a more moderate Bill in order to try to drum up more support.

Mr Trump’s latest tweets could gut that effort. “Game over,” said Representative Mark Sanford, a Republican critic of Mr Trump who came under withering attack from the president before losing his primary race this month.

“Without the president having legislators’ backs, there’s no way they’re going to take the risks that would be inherent in a major reform Bill,” Mr Sanford told CNN.

Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents a majority Hispanic district in Florida and is not running for re-election, said that Mr Trump’s tweets amount to “schizoid policymaking”.

Harsh Bills

House majority leader Kevin McCarthy insisted on Friday the Bill would be brought to the floor, where it faced an uncertain future and almost certain rejection in the Senate, where Republicans’ slim 51-49 majority makes some Democratic support necessary to pass most legislation.

Both Republican immigration Bills had received backing from Mr Trump but were rejected by Democrats and immigration advocacy groups as too harsh. They would fund a wall Mr Trump has long proposed along the border with Mexico and would also reduce legal migration.

Despite his concession on Wednesday, Mr Trump suggested on Friday that some of the wrenching tales that have emerged from the border were fabricated by Democrats, tweeting, “We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections.”

The White House criticised Democrats and journalists for focusing on a picture of a girl who cried while her mother was searched near the border. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders tweeted: “It’s shameful that dems and the media exploited this photo of a little girl to push their agenda. She was not separated from her mom. The separation here is from the facts.” – Reuters