WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It was a long, difficult battle, but the U.S. Congress on Thursday sent President Donald Trump a $4.6 billion bill to address a surge of migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Here are five important considerations to keep in mind as immigration is sure to remain one of the hottest topics both in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail in coming months:
1. Well into Trump’s third year in office, Central American migrants keep streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border despite his pledge to keep them out, and he has had to work hard to get billions of dollars in emergency funds to help care for people he regularly portrays as gangsters and criminals who ought to be deported.
Of the $4.6 billion that Congress approved on Thursday, $2.9 billion is for the Department of Health and Human Services to care for unaccompanied children and place them in suitable homes.
An additional $1.3 billion goes to the Department of Homeland Security to provide basic necessities – food, shelter and medical care – to the adult migrants it detains in the United States. Trump has tried to ship as many of those migrants as he can to Mexico to await the outcome of their asylum claims, but his administration still has to care for thousands every day.
2. Congress continues to steadfastly refuse Trump’s demand for $25 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, one of his signature 2016 campaign promises. There was barely any mention of it in this latest immigration battle.
3. Democrats appear no closer to winning permanent legal protections for up to 2 million “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the United States illegally when they were children. This is the party’s highest priority in its legislative agenda for immigration. Democrats who control the House of Representatives passed a Dreamer bill recently, but Senate Republicans have shown no interest in taking it up anytime soon.
4. The battle over caring for immigrants at the border is not over with the passage of the $4.6 billion bill. It will resume this autumn, when Democrats and Trump square off on a fiscal 2020 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The fight is likely to become even more caustic as the 2020 presidential campaign heats up.
5. Nancy Pelosi’s position as speaker of the House may have taken a hit as she had to abandon, at least for now, her attempts to build greater protections for immigrant families and children into the emergency spending bill.
She will face criticism from liberals in the party, but she can argue she put up a fight.
Pelosi will have to continue to balance the competing interests of the moderate and progressive wings of her party, even as the political battle moves to a much bigger stage – the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating contests.
Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Peter Cooney