Last-minute efforts to push through bipartisan immigration deal fail, dooming new reform effort

Washington – Negotiations in the Senate to forge a bipartisan compromise on US immigration and border policy failed to gain enough ground to pass before the end of this session of Congress, dooming a new effort to reform a system that hasn’t been updated in decades, congressional officials said. familiar with the matter told CBS News.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, an independent who until last week was a Democrat, and GOP Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina had discussed a potential deal that would have included the legalization of a subset of the millions of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, as well as some measures to reduce illegal crossings along the US-Mexico border.

But Sinema and Tillis failed to strike a deal that could have secured the 60 votes needed in the equally divided Senate during the lame session, three congressional officials said, requesting anonymity to describe the outcome of the internal negotiations.

The long-running candidacy marks Congress’ latest failure to pass legislation to overhaul an immigration system it hasn’t significantly updated since the 1990s and which Democratic and Republican lawmakers say desperately needs reform.

The the failure to reach a deal in the lame session also dims the prospects of a bipartisan immigration deal in the near future, as Republican lawmakers will take control of the House in January and have pledged not to grant “amnesty” to any group of unauthorized immigrants.

Senate of Federal Judges
The senses. Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis leave the Senate Chamber on February 25, 2020.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP


One of the congressional aides familiar with the talks said there was not enough time for Sinema and Tillis to reach an agreement before the end of the year, especially given the ongoing efforts to pass government funding bills. The aide said a framework from the talks could form the basis of a bill in the next Congress.

In an interview with Politico last week, Sinema said she and Tillis were working on “the most difficult political issue of all our careers.”

Talks between Sinema and Tillis have focused on providing a path to permanent legal status for “dreamers,” or unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children, a longstanding Democratic priority. They also sought to address Republican concerns about the unprecedented levels of border arrivals recorded over the past year.

According to people familiar with the negotiations, border-related items discussed in the talks included raising the salaries of Border Patrol agents and bolstering their ranks, providing additional funds to the Department of Homeland Security to detention centers and deportations and the enactment of additional penalties. for migrants who do not show up for their hearings.

Other proposals included the creation of processing centers to determine whether migrants have credible asylum claims and an expansion of Title 42 pandemic-related border restrictions, which have allowed the United States to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants for public health reasons since 2020. The policy, which prevents migrants from seeking asylum, is end on December 21 due to a court ruling.

While the talks between Sinema and Tillis have received expressions of support from moderate lawmakers and organizations, they have also drawn criticism from critics left and right.

Immigration extremists and some Republican lawmakers have criticized Dreamers’ legalization proposal, saying the United States should not grant “amnesty” to immigrants living in the United States without legal permission amid record arrivals of migrants along the southern border.

Advocates and progressive lawmakers, meanwhile, have denounced the border-related proposals, including the expansion of Title 42, saying they would undermine the rights of asylum seekers.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who has previously offered bipartisan compromises on immigration, told Reuters this week that the Sinema-Tillis talks were “going nowhere”.

For decades, Congress has been deadlocked on immigration issues, with major bipartisan efforts to change U.S. immigration laws that failed in 2018, 2013, and 2007. The first bill legalizing immigrants Dreamers, for example, premiered over two decades ago, in 2001.

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