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 DurbinSenator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children Legal immigrants at risk of losing status during coronavirus pandemic 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 CornynLawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package Cuban says he'd spank daughter if she was partying during coronavirus pandemic Twitter comes under fire over Chinese disinformation on coronavirus 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 campaign to suspend TV ads, canvassing amid pandemic Coronavirus isn't the only reason Congress should spend less time in DC Trump Jr. says he inherited 'Tourette's of the thumbs' from his father 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 TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says 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 McConnellOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Trump says he wouldn't have acted differently on coronavirus without impeachment 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 SchumerMcConnell launches ad touting role in passing coronavirus relief Joe Biden can't lead the charge from his home in Delaware Texas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill MORE (D-N.Y.), House Minority Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Trump, telecom executives talk coronavirus response | Pelosi pushes funding for mail-in voting | New York AG wants probe into firing of Amazon worker | Marriott hit by another massive breach MORE (D-Calif.) and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWho should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate? The Pelosi administration It's not populism that's killing America's democracy MORE (R-Wis.) met with Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMeadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House Meadows set to resign from Congress as he moves to White House 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.