Trump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration

Trump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration
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Trump, White House staff and roughly a dozen Senate Republicans met on Tuesday to discuss a path forward for legislation transitioning to a so-called "merit-based" immigration system, according to lawmakers and the White House.
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a close ally of Trump's on immigration, referred to the effort as "RAISE 2.0," a reference to legislation he previously offered with Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonRomney-Cotton, a Cancun cabbie and the minimum wage debate On The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Biden health nominee faces first Senate test MORE (R-Ark.). But unlike the previous bill, Perdue said the White House has dropped proposed cuts to legal immigration.
The GOP senator said lawmakers had "a briefing on some preliminary thoughts at a very high level about how to change … the mix of the 1.1 million legal immigrants."
Unlike the previous White House-backed bill, Perdue said that Trump's new proposal wouldn't reduce legal immigration levels, where roughly 1.1 million people receive legal immigration status in the U.S. each year.
The new proposal would try to shift the federal government's preference for who gets green cards to those with specific job skills instead of family-based immigration, Perdue said. It also wouldn't deal with undocumented immigration.
"The president wants to have a platform that he can be for. He's tired of frankly the media and the Democrats telling the world what he's against," Perdue said.
"That certainly seems to be the direction they're going and the principle focus was border security, closing loopholes that right now are mandating catch and release and helping cause the crisis we have at the border and also reforming legal immigration to move to more of a skill-based legal immigration," he said.
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, in a read out to reporters, called the meeting "important and productive."
"The President and Senators discussed a potential plan that would secure the border, protect and raise wages for the American worker, and move toward a merit based immigration system," he added.
Perdue and Cruz were two of the 12 GOP senators who met with Trump and other top administration officials, including Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerBiden to speak with Saudi king 'soon' as pressure builds for Khashoggi report Biden to speak with Saudi king ahead of Khashoggi report: report Former Trump officials eye bids for political office MORE, adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerPence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Sunday shows preview: CDC school reopening guidance stirs debate; Texas battles winter freeze Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE and acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOMB nominee gets hearing on Feb. 9 Republicans now 'shocked, shocked' that there's a deficit Financial firms brace for Biden's consumer agency chief MORE.
In addition to Perdue, Cruz and Cotton, GOP Sens. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyNew rule shakes up Senate Armed Services subcommittees The Seventeenth Amendment and the censure of Donald Trump Ex-astronaut Mark Kelly jokes about piloting congressional subway MORE (Ariz.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoBecerra says he wants to 'build on' ObamaCare when pressed on Medicare for All Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill MORE (Idaho), Jim RischJim Elroy Risch11 GOP senators slam Biden pick for health secretary: 'No meaningful experience' Biden to redirect .4M in aid to Myanmar, sanction key military figures Can Palestine matter again? MORE (Idaho), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation Durbin: Garland likely to get confirmation vote next week MORE (Iowa), Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Senate GOP ready to turn page on Trump Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote MORE (N.D.), Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy MORE (Okla.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Biden health nominee faces first Senate test MORE (Tenn.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements Haaland on drilling lease moratorium: 'It's not going to be a permanent thing' Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (Utah) and Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziLummis adopts 'laser eyes' meme touting Bitcoin Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes With Senate at stake, Georgia is on all our minds MORE (Wyo.) attended the meeting, according to a list from the White House.
Inhofe, asked if the White House had given a timeline for when they'll formally unveil their proposal, said: "If that came out of this meeting, I guess I missed that."
Crapo declined to discuss details from the meeting but similarly said that there wasn't a "resolution" from the meeting.
"They're not ready to go public with the details," Perdue said, adding that the White House "didn't put a date on" next steps but that he expected they would move "sooner than later."
Any plan would face an uphill battle on Capitol as both parties gear up for the 2020 election, were they view immigration as an issue that helps electrify the base.
Previous attempts to get a broad immigration and border security plan through Congress ran into deeply entrenched partisan and political divides.
The Senate rejected four immigration plans in 2018, including a White House-backed measure that provided a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, included $25 billion for border security, tougher interior enforcement and new limits on legal immigration.
The previous Cotton-Perdue bill also failed to make headway, stalling in the Senate Judiciary Committee despite Trump's endorsement of the legislation.
The Tuesday meeting comes as the Trump administration has homed in on what they are calling a "humanitarian crisis" along the southern border, including requesting an additional $4.5 billion in emergency spending from Congress. 
Cramer appeared to signal after the White House meeting that the administration was focused on a narrower solution, characterizing their goal as what is "doable." Cramer added that there was no discussion about the temporary guest worker program in the meeting. 
"What they were offering up, I don't want to call it modest," he said, "but it's in the doable range."