By ALAN FRAM and KEVIN FREKING
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate left hundreds of thousands of “Dreamer” immigrants in limbo Thursday, rejecting rival plans that would have spared them from deportation and strengthened the nation’s border security. Senators dealt President Donald Trump an especially galling defeat as more than a quarter of fellow Republicans abandoned him on an issue that helped propel him to the White House.
Also defeated was a plan by a bipartisan group of senators who offered a compromise that would have shielded the young immigrants and financed Trump’s demands for money to build his coveted border wall with Mexico, though more gradually than he wants. Eight Republicans joined most Democrats in backing that plan, but it fell short after the White House threatened a veto and GOP leaders opposed it.
The day’s votes, in which four separate proposals were defeated, illustrated anew Congress’ steep challenge in striking a deal on an issue that’s proven intractable for years and on which each party’s most fervent supporters refuse to budge. The outcome suggested there may be no permanent solution soon to help the Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. as children, despite their sky-high support in public polling.
The Senate votes left the young immigrants facing a March 5 deadline that Trump has given Congress for restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that he annulled last year. Federal courts have blocked him temporarily from dismantling the Obama-era initiative, but without congressional action the immigrants will face growing risks of deportation as their protections expire.
“Dreamers” are immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and now risk deportation because they lack permanent authorization to stay. DACA gives them the ability to live and work in the U.S. for two-year periods that can be renewed.
“It looks like demagogues on the left and the right win again on immigration,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who helped craft the bipartisan package but also backed Trump’s plan. He added, “The only way forward is for President Trump to grab the reins and lead us to a solution.”
That scenario wasn’t in sight Thursday. The White House trashed the bipartisan proposal as “dangerous policy that will harm the nation,” denouncing a provision directing the government to prioritize enforcement efforts against immigrants who arrive illegally — beginning in July. Trump proved unwilling to fold on his demands for a tougher bill, reflecting the hard-line immigration stance that fueled his presidential run.
After the Senate rejected all four proposals on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blamed Democrats for failing to accept what he said was a “generous” offer from Trump.
“They turned away from a golden opportunity to solve the issue,” said McConnell. He expressed openness to considering a future compromise but said, “For that to happen, Democrats will need to take a second look” at Trump’s demands.
Trump had dangled a chance for citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants, meeting a top Democratic demand. But that plan also included $25 billion to build his border wall with Mexico and enact other border security measures, tighter curbs on relatives whom legal immigrants could sponsor for citizenship and an end to a visa lottery that encourages immigration from diverse nations.
No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said after the votes that lawmakers might consider temporarily protecting Dreamers from deportation in a government-wide spending measure Congress will consider next month.
He said that approach “to me is not great, but that’s kind of where we are.”
Democrats said Trump was the major hindrance to a broader deal.
“This vote is proof that President Trump’s plan will never become law,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “If he would stop torpedoing bipartisan efforts, a good bill would pass.”
The Senate derailed Trump’s proposal by voting 60-39 against it — 21 votes shy of the 60 it needed to survive.
The White House reacted angrily Thursday night, releasing a statement accusing “Schumer Democrats” of not being serious about DACA, immigration reform or homeland security.
And yet, 14 Republicans — more than 1 in 4 — joined 46 Democrats in opposition. The “no” votes included some of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans, many of whom were uncomfortable with offering citizenship to immigrants here illegally.
Just three Democrats backed Trump’s proposal, all of them facing dicey November re-election in states he carried easily in 2016: Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.
The vote on the bipartisan plan was 54-45, six short of the required 60. Eight Republicans who helped craft that compromise supported it, and three Democrats voted “no” including Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who’s viewed as a 2020 presidential hopeful.
That proposal offered the citizenship pathway for Dreamers and $25 billion for border security, but doled it out over 10 years. Trump’s bill would have prevented legal immigrants from sponsoring parents and siblings for citizenship and would have ended a visa lottery aimed at allowing more diverse immigrants into the U.S. The compromise bill would have left the lottery system intact but barred Dreamers who obtain citizenship from sponsoring their parents.
The bipartisan measure’s sponsors included eight GOP senators. It was produced by a group led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Manchin.
Also rejected was a modest plan by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del. It would have let many Dreamers qualify for permanent residency and directed federal agencies to more effectively control the border by 2020. But it didn’t offer a special citizenship pathway, raise border security funds or make sweeping changes in legal immigration rules.
A proposal by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., was killed that would have blocked federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” communities that don’t cooperate with federal efforts to enforce immigration laws.
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
ELECTION FILING CLOSED: MAY 8TH SHERIFF’S PRIMARY A THREE-WAY RACE
Candidate filing in Onslow County closed at 12:00 p.m. today, with no new candidates for the Sheriff’s seat. Potential candidates Robin Knapp and Paul Buchanon did not make a showing at the Board of Elections, leaving the battle to incumbent Hans Miller, former Chief Deputy Boyd Brown, and latecomer Walter J. Scott, the former spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
John Yopp has also washed out. He filed campaign finance paperwork in January and announced his candidacy, but never followed through with the final paperwork. The Yopp campaign never got off the ground and seems to have fizzled just as quickly as it started.
The Libertarian and Democratic parties remain empty.
Incumbent Hans Miller has faced heavy criticism over his leadership, with one source assessing him, “weaker than a packet of Kool-aid in the New River”, and many others calling for his resignation.
He’s been publicly lambasted for sweeping the Will Clifton scandal under the rug and lack of transparency about the nature of Clifton’s departure from the OCSO: claiming it was unrelated to reports of the former School Resource Officer raping a high school student. These same allegations appear to have been under an internal investigation by Miller’s Office at the time of the resignation. Of the same, Miller publicly claimed this amounted to “personal reasons” for the former deputy to tender his resignation. Flip-flopping weeks later he stated that he told the deputy to resign or be fired, but not over the criminal allegations, just what he calls a “difference in values” that had come to his attention.
The court had also intervened with Clifton by issuing multiple protective orders as a result of Clifton’s violence and apparent threats and ordered him to stay away from several minor children, having refused to do so under direction from the Sheriff’s Office during Miller’s internal investigation. This was done at the request of another Onslow Deputy, David Pickett, who was acting as a Guardian Ad Litem for a minor child.
Later it was discovered that a second, much younger victim had come forward, and Clifton faced an additional investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation.
More recently, Miller has been under fire for his apparent lack of aggressiveness in seeking charges against Kristy Kay Hunter, mom of slain tot, Mariah woods.Miller has also launched vicious attacks on competitor Boyd Brown, challenging his integrity and repeatedly calling him a thief.
Boyd Brown has increased his activity as of late, with his billboard campaign ads appearing across the county. Some streets in Onslow County are lined end-to-end with his green and yellow campaign signs, without a trace of support for Miller. Despite the attacks on his credibility, Brown has maintained a steady hand and tackled the issues head-on, offering detailed responses to Miller’s mudslinging on his Facebook page. The only one seeming to challenge Brown’s honesty is Miller, but Brown shows no sign of giving way to these dirty campaign tactics or lowering himself to Miller’s level.
A third candidate, Walter J. Scott, launched his campaign Facebook earlier this week, “Elect Walter Scott for Sheriff”, and his website, “electwalterjscott.com”.Scott has taken advantage of the platform to make a multitude of posts. He’s outlined on his page his visions, plans, and goals if elected to the Sheriff’s position, and provided additional details about his background and experience; including his service as a Patrol Commander at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s office and service on the Drug Task Force and Dive Team.
Many people in Onslow County are looking for a change this election cycle, asking for a new Sheriff that stands up for victims instead of “covering the six” of his deputies and spending every waking moment promoting himself.
Time will tell how the candidates fair at the primary, but you’ll hear it right here first, at News In Onslow!
NRA accuses gun-control advocates of exploiting FL shooting
WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders of the National Rifle Association on Thursday accused gun control advocates of exploiting the deadly Florida school shooting, striking a defiant tone amid a renewed debate over guns and school safety.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, in his first public comments since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, said NRA members mourn for the Florida victims but at the same time issued a searing indictment of gun control proponents for attempting to “exploit tragedy for political gain.”
“They hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom,” LaPierre said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near the nation’s capital.
LaPierre addressed the conservative activists shortly before President Donald Trump held a listening session with state and local leaders on gun safety at the White House.
The president said he had spoken to NRA leaders and expressed optimism that the nation’s most prominent gun-owners organization would support his calls for raising the federal minimum age for buying or possessing certain weapons, enhancing background checks, addressing mental illness and banning the sale of bump stock devices.
NRA leaders did not address whether the federal government should raise the age requirement for young adults to buy weapons. A day earlier, the organization issued a statement saying it opposes raising the age limit.
“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” LaPierre said. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”
LaPierre said Democrats such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut were eagerly blaming the NRA. He also assailed the FBI for failing to follow up on warnings about the school shooter.
“Their solution is to make you, all of you, less free,” LaPierre said of gun control advocates. “They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.”
The longtime face of the NRA was preceded on stage by the group’s spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, a prominent conservative radio host. She accused media outlets of focusing heavily on school shootings involving white and affluent neighborhoods instead of those occurring in inner cities.
“Many in legacy media love mass shootings, you guys love it,” Loesch said. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
Trump says raise age for buying assault rifles, defying NRA
WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation should keep assault rifles out of the hands of anyone under 21, President Donald Trump declared Thursday, defying his loyal supporters in the National Rifle Association amid America’s public reckoning over gun violence. He also pushed hard for arming security guards and many teachers in U.S. schools.
“There’s nothing more important than protecting our children,” Trump said, adding that he’d spoken with many members of Congress and NRA officials and insisting they would go along with his plans in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.
But there were no words of support from the NRA for his minimum-age proposal — and outright opposition from organizations of teachers and school security guards for the idea of arming schools to deal with intruders.
“The NRA will back it and so will Congress,” Trump contended as he called for raising the legal age of purchase for “all” guns from 18 to 21. A spokesman later said Trump was speaking specifically about semi-automatic weapons. The president’s proposal came just hours after the NRA affirmed its opposition, calling such a restriction an infringement on gun owners’ rights.
Trump has spent the past two days listening to ideas about how to stem gun violence at schools after last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. On Wednesday, he heard from students and family members of those killed in recent shootings and on Thursday from local and state officials.
In Florida, meanwhile, funerals continued. And a sheriff’s deputy who had been on duty at the school but never went inside to confront the shooter resigned after being suspended without pay.
Trump has been proposing a growing list of ideas, including more stringent background checks for gun buyers, reopening some mental institutions to hold potential killers and banning “bump stock” devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic machine guns.
He said Thursday that many teachers have military experience and suggested they be paid bonuses for the added responsibility of carrying weapons. He also appeared open to other proposals to “harden” schools, such as fortifying walls and limiting entry points.
One idea he didn’t like: the “active shooter” drills that some schools hold. He called that “a very negative thing” and said he wouldn’t want his own son participating.
Spokesman Raj Shah later said Trump was concerned about the name and would prefer calling them safety drills.
In Florida, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he now is open to raising age requirements for long-gun purchases. That was the day after he was confronted at a CNN town hall by Parkland students and parents over his pro-gun votes and support from the NRA.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, another Republican, told reporters during a visit to the Kansas Statehouse that he supported raising age requirements, saying: “Certainly, nobody under 21 should have an AR-15.”
NRA leaders emerged in unannounced appearances at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, blaming the FBI and local reporting failures for the Florida shooting.
“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” said Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”
NRA officials also accused Democrats and media outlets of exploiting the Florida shooting.
“Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” spokeswoman Dana Loesch said at CPAC. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
She and LaPierre did not mention the age requirement issue in their fiery remarks at CPAC. But Loesch said Wednesday night the NRA opposes the higher minimum age for rifles because, “if we are asking young men and women to go and serve their country (in the military) they should be able to also have a firearm.”
She added, “I’m also thinking of young women” who may need a rifle for self-protection.
The NRA was an early supporter of Trump’s campaign, and it remains unclear how far the president will go to cross them.
Shortly before LaPierre took the stage, Trump offered a rallying cry on Twitter, calling NRA leaders “Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing.”
“I don’t think I’ll be going up against them,” he said of the politically influential group. “I really think the NRA wants to do what’s right.”
In Congress, a bill being drafted by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., would apply more broadly than just to assault rifles such as the AR-15 used in the Florida shootings. It would raise the age requirements for all rifles.
In the end, Trump did not stray too far from conservative Republican orthodoxy. His focus when it comes to background checks is on mental health concerns and not loopholes that permit loose private gun sales on the internet and at gun shows. And he remains opposed to a full ban on assault rifles, Shah said.
Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he was skeptical the president would follow though.
“The last time he showed support for sensible gun reform — no fly, no buy — he quickly dropped his support once the NRA opposed it. I hope this time will be different,” Schumer said in a statement, referring to a measure backed by Democrats to prevent people on a terrorism-related “no fly” list from buying guns.
Indeed, it is not clear that the GOP-controlled Congress, which is in recess, will take up or act on a variety of legislative proposals that have been made to address gun violence. Those include measures to expand federal background checks, allow authorities to issue emergency orders to take guns from people identified as a threat to themselves or others, and raise the minimum age for rifle purchases to 21.
The current federal minimum for buying handguns from registered dealers is 21, but the requirement in most places is 18 for rifles, including assault-type weapons such as the AR-15. In some states — mostly rural states with a strong tradition of hunting — young people can buy a rifle at age 14 or 16.
Polls show growing support for gun control measures, including 97-percent backing for universal background checks in a Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday.
But recent mass shootings, including the 2012 mass murder of elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, and the killing of 58 people in Las Vegas last fall, have not resulted in significant legislation. In fact, a bill passed by the House in December would make it easier for gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
Still, Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla, said the president has a “unique ability right now to maybe really do something about these school shootings” because, at least in some districts, “nobody is more popular,” including the NRA.