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Senate Rejects Immigration Bills After Trump Veto Threat

Activists and DACA recipients march up Broadway during the start of their 'Walk to Stay Home,' a five-day 250-mile walk from New York to Washington D.C., to demand that Congress pass a Clean Dream Act. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters )

The U.S. Senate failed to advance any legislation to protect "Dreamer" immigrants on Thursday, falling short of the 60 votes needed to move forward on four proposals including one backed by President Donald Trump and two bipartisan measures.

The series of votes came after Trump slammed the leading bipartisan proposal as "a total catastrophe," and the White House threatened to veto the bill, which had been considered the most likely to get through a deeply divided Senate.

The outcome concluded a week of Senate consideration on immigration and left in limbo the future status of 1.8 million young adults brought to the United States illegally as children. They had been protected from deportation under an Obama-era program that Trump has ordered to end by March 5.

Trump has said any immigration bill to protect Dreamers should also include funds to build a border wall with Mexico, end the visa lottery program and impose curbs on visas for the families of legal immigrants.

He had urged support for a measure by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, but that bill gained only 39 votes in support. A narrow bill focusing just on Dreamers and border security, by Republican John McCain and Democrat Chris Coons, failed on a 52-47 vote.

The leading bipartisan measure, crafted by a group led by Republican Senator Susan Collins, would have protected the Dreamers and also included a $25 billion fund to strengthen border security and possibly even build segments of Trump's long-promised border wall with Mexico.

But the White House had criticized the bill, saying it would weaken enforcement of current law and produce a flood of illegal immigration. The Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also had blasted it.

"This amendment would drastically change our national immigration policy for the worse by weakening border security and undercutting existing immigration law," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The bipartisan bill failed on a 54-45 vote.

A fourth measure, focused on punishing "sanctuary cities" that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts, also fell short of 60 votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had set a deadline for the Senate to pass an immigration measure by the end of this week. In light of the failure, some immigration advocates have considered trying to push a "Band-Aid" approach providing temporary protections for Dreamers.

Although the protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are due to start expiring on March 5, federal judges have blocked that from taking effect amid ongoing litigation. {eoa]

Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Katanga Johnson and Makini Brice; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman

© 2018 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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