Senators say they're waiting on White House immigration demands
© Greg Nash

Key senators involved in negotiations on an Obama-era immigration program said Wednesday they are still waiting for the White House's list of border security demands. 

“Well, we waited again with, sadly, no results for the administration to produce their border security plan. How long have we been waiting? They've promised it over and over and over again,” Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders surge triggers Dem angst As many as eight GOP senators expected to vote to curb Trump's power to attack Iran MORE (D-Ill.) told reporters, asked about progress made in the immigration negotiations during the holiday recess. 

A bipartisan group of senators and White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE met in mid-December to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, with lawmakers saying the administration would send over a list of demands within days. 


The administration announced last year that it would end DACA, which allows immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to work and go to school if they meet certain conditions. 

But multiple senators and Senate staffers said on Wednesday that the list hadn't materialized yet.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBooker, Cornyn introduce bill to fund school nutrition programs Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday Democrats seek to drive wedge between Trump, GOP on whistleblowers MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that “I personally haven't seen it, but hopefully my staff has.”

“They said they would send it over, and I just don't know what happened over the holidays,” he added, when told that Durbin also hadn't seen the list. 

A spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally launches 2020 campaign Sinema will vote to convict Trump Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle MORE (R-Ariz.), who organized the mid-December meeting, said they also hadn't received the White House's list.

A bipartisan group of senators have been negotiating behind closed doors to try to get a deal that ties a DACA fix to border security. But GOP senators say they wanted the White House to outline what it would require in any legislation for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE to sign it. 


A spokesman for the White House, asked about a timeframe, said he was “pretty sure we sent them back on Oct 8th.”

The White House released a wide-ranging list of border security and immigration principles last year that were quickly panned by Democrats. That included cracking down on immigrant children being sent to the U.S. border from Central and South American countries and construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall

The White House aide didn't immediately respond to a question on Wednesday about if they were saying the White House wouldn’t send over a new list. 

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also noted on Wednesday that the administration had already laid out its priorities for a deal. 

“Our priorities on what we would hope to have in any immigration bill and in any DACA deal haven't changed. They would include securing the border with a wall, ensuring interior enforcement, eliminating the visa lottery program, and ending chain migration. All those things are still the same,” she said. 

The immigration fight has emerged as a key sticking point as Congress heads toward looming deadlines over funding the government and avoiding automatic across-the-board spending cuts. 

Durbin said on Wednesday that Democrats were open to including changes to “chain migration” — which allows citizens and permanent residents to sponsor family members.

“We're open to the conversation. ... There are ways to do this, sensible ways to do this,” he said.

He added that the sticking point for Democrats would be that once citizens, "Dreamers" must have all the rights of citizens. 

Asked if the legislation would include limits on who “Dreamers” who have received green cards could sponsor, Durbin demurred, saying he wouldn't “get into details.”

He added that there had been “some ideas [but] no agreement” to changes on the State Department’s diversity visa lottery system. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE has promised to give a DACA fix a vote on the Senate floor if negotiators can reach a deal this month. 

McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.), House Minority Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' Short defends Trump's tweets as a 'very effective way' to communicate with Americans Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan says Biden likely won't get Democratic nomination Judd Gregg: Honey, I Shrunk The Party The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE (R-Wis.) met with Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request Scaramucci thanks John Kelly for speaking up against Trump Trump lashes out over Kelly criticism: 'He misses the action' MORE, Trump's budget chief, and Marc Short on Wednesday to discuss the myriad of outstanding issues.

A spokesman for Schumer said after the meeting that they had not yet received the White House's border security list. 

McConnell, Ryan and the White House said in a joint statement after the meeting that it “remains important that members of Congress do not hold funding for our troops hostage for immigration policy.”

Democratic leadership is under pressure to get a DACA agreement included as part of any funding or spending deal after they kicked the issue into 2018.

Republicans will need to rely on Democratic votes if they want to avoid a government shutdown on Dec. 19.

Cornyn appeared open to linking an immigration deal to the omnibus, if senators are able to come up with a “consensus” agreement in time. 

“If we have a bill that basically represents a consensus position there's no reason to wait. On the other hand I don’t think we can hold up acting on that omnibus if we're not ready,” he said.