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 CottonEx-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Republicans raise concerns about Olympians using digital yuan during Beijing Games 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.
Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine MORE (R-Texas), who also attended the meeting, said he expects the White House will publicly outline an immigration framework at some point.
"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 KushnerKushner launching investment firm in move away from politics: report Washington Post calls on Democrats to subpoena Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Meadows for testimony on Jan. 6 Unsealed documents detail Trump and Biden efforts on reporter records MORE, adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerTrump to Pence on Jan. 6: 'You don't have the courage' 'Just say we won,' Giuliani told Trump aides on election night: book Stephen Miller contends no president dealt better hand than Biden MORE and acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE.
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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."