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White House demands for immigration bill rejected by Democrats
[WASHINGTON] Democrats rejected a Trump administration proposal for US$18 billion over 10 years for a wall at the US-Mexico border, including 722 miles of new and replacement barriers, the latest development in a political battle that could lead to a government shutdown.
Senators from both parties had sought input from the administration on its border-security goals to help advance weeks-long talks that seek to produce a measure that could move through the chamber this month. The White House proposal includes US$8.5 billion for interior enforcement and "mission readiness" and US$5.7 billion for technology.
Democrats in both chambers rejected the plan on Friday, which came the same day the White House also sent lawmakers a broader set of ideas that were drafted by White House aide Stephen Miller, a hardliner on immigration policy.
That proposal was the same as a plan issued in October and included a border wall, sanctions on "sanctuary cities" that don't cooperate with federal immigration law enforcement, closing "loopholes" in asylum law and 10,000 new immigration enforcement agents.
Republicans and Democrats are seeking compromise legislation that bolsters border security and includes deportation protections for 800,000 young immigrants known as "dreamers," who were brought to the US illegally as children.
Democrats are demanding the deal be included in a spending bill that must pass by Jan 19 to keep the government open.
Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader, said the administration proposal represents a hard-line approach that could prevent agreement on the spending measure and lead to a government shutdown.
"President Trump has said he may need a good government shutdown to get his wall," Mr Durbin said in a statement. "With this demand, he seems to be heading in that direction."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California sent a letter about the US$18 billion border wall request to all House Democrats on Friday.
"This is alarming," she wrote. "We must all speak out."
The White House did not have an immediate comment on the decision to send the old wish list to lawmakers and instead pointed to a statement from earlier this week. In it, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley that said the administration seeks "critical reforms" to secure the border, including a wall, ending family-based migration and canceling a diversity visa lottery programme.