Senate

Trump hits the brakes on Senate immigration deal

A bipartisan group of senators says they have clinched a deal to provide protections to young immigrants known as Dreamers, but are facing pushback from President Trump and GOP leadership.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday the group of six senators has locked down an agreement amongst themselves on pairing a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a border security package. 

“We’ve got this bipartisan group. We are at a deal. … It’s the only game in town,” Flake told reporters.

But Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) were told during a Thursday meeting with President Trump at the White House that he was not ready to sign on to the bill.

“We were hoping for that, but the president is not prepared to do that at this moment,” Durbin said when asked if they wanted the president’s support before they moved forward with their agreement.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, during a press briefing, said, “There has not been a deal reached yet. However, we still think we can get there and we are very focused on trying to make sure that happens.”

The group of senators holding the talks — which also includes Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.) — has been negotiating for months on a deal that would include a fix for DACA.

Their bill is expected to include legalization for DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, as well as a border security package and changes to the State Department’s diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies.

{mosads}Those four parameters are in line with what Trump and lawmakers agreed to during a White House meeting earlier this week.

The six senators said in a joint statement Thursday afternoon they have reached an agreement, which would include a path to citizenship.

“President Trump called on Congress to solve the DACA challenge. … We are now working to build support for that deal in Congress,” they said.

Durbin said the bill would include a pathway to citizenship not only for current DACA recipients, but other immigrants in the country illegally who would qualify for the program. 
 
Meanwhile, Flake indicated that any changes to family-based immigration would be narrowly focused to the current DACA population and their family members, and not apply, as some Republicans want, to the entire immigration population. 
 
Flake also said senators had discussed reallocating some of the State Department’s diversity lottery visas to people who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program the Trump administration has been scaling back. 
 
Both Flake and Durbin have declined to discuss specific border security numbers. But Durbin indicated Wednesday night that the border security package would include funding for fencing and barriers, but also technology. 

Durbin confirmed that he believed the group has an agreement and they are “working to get support from the other senators, on both sides of the aisle, and we won’t be releasing draft or final version at least through the weekend.”

Flake added that members of the working group will try to line up more co-sponsors before releasing details of their deal.

“We’re shopping it among our colleagues,” he said. “We got a few others already said they’ll sign on and we’re working on others before we release details of it.”

Staffers for Durbin, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are expected to meet Thursday as part of separate discussions to figure out a path forward.

“Kevin McCarthy asked for a chance to move forward. … We’ll work with him to see what we can achieve,” Durbin said.

Still, the White House suggested the emerging Senate agreement was not something Trump would accept, even though the president on Tuesday suggested he would sign whatever immigration bill lawmakers sent to his desk.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said the president has not signed on to the agreement and that there is a “long ways to go.”

He added that the White House is “not looking for DACA to be the DREAM Act” — referring to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that provides a path to citizenship.

Short added the president wants changes to “chain migration” to go broader than just impacting the DACA population, a potential hurdle from the bipartisan Senate group’s deal.

“I think we’re pleased that bipartisan members are talking … but I still think there’s a ways to go,” he said.

GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.), McCarthy and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) — who have not been part of the bipartisan Senate talks — were also part of Thursday’s White House meeting.

Cornyn said a message had been delivered that the bipartisan group would not be able to single-handedly decide what the final DACA agreement is.

“I think what the president told them is its fine for them to negotiate … but what they need to do is share that with others so it will have broad enough support to actually get passed,” he said.

The Trump administration announced last year that they were ending the DACA program, giving Congress a March deadline to codify the Obama-era program into law.

Both sides have appeared sympathetic to DACA recipients, but Congress has struggled to come up with a broad agreement that could win enough support to overcome likely pushback from conservatives as well as progressive Democrats.

Goodlatte was part of a group of House Republicans who introduced their own proposal this week, but that bill is unlikely to be able to win over enough support to pass the Senate.

 

– Alex Bolton contributed

Updated at 4:24 p.m.

Tags bipartisan Bob Goodlatte Bob Menendez Cory Gardner DACA deferred action for childhood arrivals Dick Durbin Diversity Immigrant Visa Donald Trump Immigration Jeff Flake Jeff Flake John Cornyn Kevin McCarthy Lindsey Graham Michael Bennet Senate Steny Hoyer Tom Cotton

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video