GOP leaders say immigration bill coming in 2018

GOP leaders say immigration bill coming in 2018
© Getty

Senate Republicans are looking to move an immigration bill to the floor early next year, despite a push by Democrats to pass legislation before the end of 2017 that would protect nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Republicans say there's not enough time to pass a fix for those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before year's end, noting that the 2017 calendar is already packed with work on tax reform and President Trump’s nominees.

“I think it’s more likely than not to be part of a January-February timeframe,” said Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Air Force makes criminal reporting changes after Texas massacre We need a better pathway for allowing civilians to move guns across state lines MORE (R-Texas), who discussed the issue at a meeting with Trump on Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT

While Republicans are ruling out the possibility of including immigration legislation in a year-end spending bill, Democrats — led by Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocrats turn on Al Franken Minnesota's largest newspaper calls on Franken to resign Democratic senator predicts Franken will resign Thursday MORE (Calif.) — have mulled blocking the government funding package unless in includes language to help so-called Dreamers.

“It won’t be part of the omnibus. That’s the pipe dream of some of the Democrats who think this will be swept up in the year-end spending bill,” Cornyn said.

Some Republicans, however, worry that delaying immigration legislation until shortly before the DACA program is set to expire in early spring will put undue stress on the young people facing deportation.

“I think we ought to do [it in] a year-end spending bill,” said Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Sasse: RNC help for Roy Moore 'doesn't make any sense' Sasse calls RNC decision to resume support for Moore 'bad' and 'sad' MORE (R-Ariz.), the co-author of the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013 but died in the House. That legislation would have granted legal status to young immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

“These kids are going to get timed out, and it’s terrible for them to live with that kind of uncertainty. We ought to deal with it now, we shouldn’t wait on it,” argued Flake, who is not seeking reelection next year.

A group of Senate Republicans met with Trump at the White House on Thursday to discuss the parameters of the immigration package.

They agreed it should offer protections for Dreamers at risk of deportation in exchange for changes to the law to limit chain migration and beef-up immigration enforcement, according to lawmakers. 

They also agreed that it should not be attached to end-of-year spending legislation, as Democrats have advocated.

“Absolutely not on the omnibus, under no circumstances,” said Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures Five things senators should ask Tom Cotton if he’s nominated to lead the CIA MORE (R-Ark.), who attended the meeting with Trump.

Cotton said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) and Trump are in agreement that immigration legislation should be kept separate from a government funding package.

Democrats pushed back Thursday afternoon against postponing immigration legislation until 2018.

“I am confident that there is strong bipartisan support in Congress to get the #DreamAct passed before the end of the year,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted.

“We are going to do everything we can to get it done, no matter what the President says on one given day or another,” Schumer added.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would grant legal status to immigrants — the Dreamers — who came to the country illegally as children if they don’t have criminal records and meet other requirements. 

Trump announced in September that he would rescind the DACA program, which former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE created in 2012 to shield hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in the U.S. However, Trump gave Congress a six-month window to come up with a legislative fix.

"Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?" Trump wrote on Twitter in September after announcing the end of the Obama-era program.

"They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own — brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security."

In exchange for a DACA fix, Trump and Republicans want to limit chain migration, which means they want to limit citizens and permanent legal residents to sponsoring only their spouses and unmarried dependent children for green cards.

“He wants a solution, he put it back into the Congress’s lap on DACA. He gave us until early March and he expects a solution, but any solution to DACA’s got to include an ending to chain migration,” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) told reporters after the meeting.

The GOP plan discussed with Trump could take months of negotiation. Senate Republicans plan to craft their immigration package and then reach out to House Republicans working on companion legislation, before reaching out to Democrats.

"The president seemed to be very enthusiastic in supporting it, which gives us the green light now to reach out to our House colleagues who also have their own separate working group to build consensus,” Cornyn said.

“Then we’ll sit down with Democrats,” he added.