Kelly met with top senators on DACA fix
White House chief of staff John Kelly met privately with a key group of senators on Tuesday over an Obama-era immigration program as Congress looks increasingly likely to punt the fight into January.
Kelly and Department of Homeland Security officials used the meeting to lay out their ideas for what should be included in any border security package, including discussing fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Senators have been negotiating behind closed doors for months on what would be packaged together with a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Asked if he had a concrete idea of what the Trump administration will accept, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who took part in the meeting, quipped that Senate negotiators “got too much paper.”
“They had a grandiose plan and I kind of stepped in and said ‘don’t put all this on the backs of Dreamers. Come back with what you need to include in this bill for the White House to support it,’ ” he told The Hill, using a common term for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children who benefit from the DACA program.
Sources told Politico that Kelly said the administration could return with a new list of demands within days, though lawmakers in both parties signaled on Tuesday that Congress isn’t expected to tackle the immigration fight before next year.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), asked about the schedule for DACA, told reporters earlier Tuesday that Congress will “turn to it in January.”
“We’re having meetings, ongoing meetings. … Several of us are going to be meeting with General Kelly and Customs and Border Protection tonight to talk about what the president will be looking for when he signs a bill,” he said.
The Trump administration announced earlier this year that it would end DACA, which allows certain immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to work and go to school.
The move sets up a mid-March deadline to pass a legislative fix or hundreds of thousands of such immigrants will be at risk of being deported.
Some Democrats and immigration activists have demanded that a DACA deal pass Congress this year as part of a year-end government funding bill — something GOP leadership has been adamant will not happen.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News on Tuesday that an immigration deal wouldn’t pass this year, and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) sidestepped when asked if he would oppose a short-term continuing resolution if it didn’t include an immigration deal.
“Oh it is very, very difficult to imagine that it’s done this year,” Durbin said.
— This story was updated at 10:38 p.m. EST.
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