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 CornynCalls grow for Biden to expand election map in final sprint Bipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection 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 HarrisSocial Security and Medicare are on the ballot this November Harris honors Ginsburg, visits Supreme Court The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump and Biden vie for Minnesota | Early voting begins in four states | Blue state GOP governors back Susan Collins 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 FlakeJeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Republican former Michigan governor says he's voting for Biden Maybe they just don't like cowboys: The president is successful, some just don't like his style 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 Bryant CottonBattle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight Sunday shows - Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death dominates Chris Wallace presses Cotton on 'any hypocrisy' between comments on Supreme Court vacancy in 2016 and today MORE (R-Ark.), who attended the meeting with Trump.

Cotton said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOcasio-Cortez to voters: Tell McConnell 'he is playing with fire' with Ginsburg's seat McConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Video shows NYC subway station renamed after Ruth Bader Ginsburg 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 SchumerChuck SchumerRepublican senator says plans to confirm justice before election 'completely consistent with the precedent' Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral Graham signals support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year 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 ObamaDemocratic Senate campaign arm outraises GOP by M in August A federal court may have declared immigration arrests unconstitutional Blunt says vote on Trump court nominee different than 2016 because White House, Senate in 'political agreement' 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.