President Trump wants Congress to 'act now' on immigration, but that's unlikely to happen

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump calls on Congress to pass immigration legislation.
  • Congress and the White House have already failed to agree on a plan to boost border security and extend legal protections for young immigrants this year.
  • The inability of the Senate to reach a consensus and the midterm election schedule could complicate any efforts to pass an immigration bill.
Demonstrators raise their fists in protest of President Trump's attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action made by President Obama that protected minors known as Dreamers who entered the country illegally from deportation, outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 5, 2018.
Samuel Corum | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

President Donald Trump wants Congress to pass an immigration bill.

He shouldn't hold his breath.

In a tweet Monday morning, the president urged lawmakers to "immediately pass Border Legislation" to stop what he called "the massive inflow of Drugs and People." Trump pushed Congress to "act now," contending "our country is being stolen!"

Trump, irked by a perceived immigration loss in the recently passed spending bill, suggested the Senate should take the so-called nuclear option, or end the legislative filibuster. The action would allow the chamber's 51 Republicans to pass legislation without a Democratic vote.

A number of hurdles stand in Congress' way of passing stand-alone legislation that would potentially put more money toward border enforcement while enshrining legal protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants. Lawmakers and the White House already struggled to reach a bipartisan immigration agreement earlier this year.

Multiple immigration proposals failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate in February. A GOP plan championed by Trump did not crack 50 votes. Senate Republicans still oppose ending the legislative filibuster, said David Popp, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. That means any immigration bill would need at least some Democratic support.

Republicans and Democrats both would want an immigration policy win to promote to their voters ahead of November's midterm elections. Many bipartisan lawmakers seek a swift resolution for the immigrants shielded by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump tried to end the Obama-era DACA program, but it is in place for now, due to court rulings.

Time for concrete legislative action could be limited until the elections, as all House members and some senators vie for re-election. It is not clear that bipartisan members of Congress and the White House could reach common ground on an immigration solution anytime soon.

Trump has rejected some proposals to offer up to $25 billion in border security funding in exchange for legal protections and a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young immigrants. He harshly criticized a bipartisan Senate bill to do so, which came up short with 54 votes in February.

The president wants tougher restrictions on legal immigration along with funding for his proposed border wall and a DACA fix. The spending bill Trump signed into law last month includes $1.6 billion for some structures on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump considers that money inadequate and threatened to veto the legislation because of it.

The House could still act on immigration despite the campaign schedule, said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. He said the president has repeatedly rejected plans to pair border funding with a DACA solution.

Congressional leaders failed to strike an agreement on immigration as they hashed out the details of the spending bill passed last month. The White House and congressional leaders discussed a possible deal to include $25 billion in border wall funding in exchange for extending DACA protections. The parties could not reach an agreement as Republicans and Democrats disagreed over whether up to 1.8 million immigrants should get a path to citizenship as part of that deal.

After the talks during the spending bill negotiations fizzled out, it is unclear when congressional leaders would make progress on immigration. Representatives for McConnell, Pelosi, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer gave no indication that Congress could pass an immigration bill soon.

Trump continues to push Congress to fund a border wall. The president sent several tweets on Sunday and Monday pushing for action from Congress or Mexico to boost border security.

"Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper border legislation," Trump tweeted on Monday.

In an Easter morning tweet, he wrote, "Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!"