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Bipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge

Bipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge
© Bloomberg/Pool

A bipartisan group of senators led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick DurbinDick Durbin28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw MORE (D-Ill.) met Wednesday afternoon to explore the possibility of immigration reform legislation that could address the surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senators praised the meeting afterward as “constructive” and a promising start but said they didn’t reach agreement on any core elements.

The talks come amid what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasDHS warns terrorists may attack as coronavirus restrictions ease Capitol riot fuels debate over domestic terror laws Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform MORE says is on pace to be the biggest migrant surge in 20 years. 

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The starting points include the Republican demand that the asylum process at the southern border be streamlined so fewer migrant children are released into the United States to await the processing of immigration courts and the Democratic demand that immigrants who were brought into the country illegally at a young age, "Dreamers," be given a path to citizenship. 

“It was a good meeting. It was a very positive meeting and bipartisan, obviously,” Durbin said. “We did not reach any conclusions. We want to pursue a number of elements: the bills that came over from the House as well as border security.” 

He was referring to two immigration reform bills passed by the House in March. 

The American Dream and Promise Act would let immigrants who entered the country as children earn permanent legal status and eventual citizenship.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would grant temporary legal status with the option to become permanent residents to farm workers and reform the H-2A agricultural guest worker program.

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Durbin said that “many of the ideas are on the table, and we invite the administration to look at them, join us in this conversations.” 

Wednesday was the second time the group of senators has met this year.

It plans to schedule another meeting soon, but Durbin declined to set a deadline for reaching a deal.

On the issue of border security, Durbin said that “it’s not a simple issue of ‘do this and it’s fixed.’ It involves so many things.”

He said there needs to be cooperation with the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to stem the flow of migrants fleeing violence and poverty.

He also acknowledged Republican calls to reform the immigration courts in the United States.

“Most of these we’ve been through before. We got to sit down. We agree, I think we agree, on a bipartisan basis that we got to reform the system, as far as we can take it,” he added.

Durbin declined to talk about the prospect of attaching immigration reform to an infrastructure package that Democratic leaders plan to pass through the Senate under budget reconciliation to bypass an expected GOP filibuster.

Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsNew York, New Jersey, California face long odds in scrapping SALT  Biden to go one-on-one with Manchin US, Iran signal possible breakthroughs in nuke talks MORE (D-Del.), a close Biden ally, said he was encouraged by the meeting.

“It was a very constructive conversation with a group of interested individuals,” he said. 

Other lawmakers who attended Wednesday’s meeting were Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCDC's about-face on masks appears politically motivated to help a struggling Biden Bipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Romney: Capitol riot was 'an insurrection against the Constitution' MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRomney: Capitol riot was 'an insurrection against the Constitution' Senate panel deadlocks over Biden pick to lead DOJ civil rights division Senate GOP dismayed by vote to boot Cheney MORE (R-Alaska), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood causes headache for GOP in key S.C. race GOP governors move to cut unemployment benefits as debate rages over effects Trump critics push new direction for GOP MORE (R-S.C.), John CornynJohn CornynGOP split on counteroffer to Biden's spending Police reform talks hit familiar stumbling block CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger MORE (R-Texas), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoOn The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction Hillicon Valley: DOJ to review cyber challenges | Gaetz, House Republicans want to end funding for postal service surveillance | TikTok gets new CEO Americans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetNew York, New Jersey, California face long odds in scrapping SALT  Overnight Defense: Former Pentagon chief to testify about Capitol riot Wednesday | Senate Intelligence chairman wants Biden to review US Space Command move Senate Intelligence chairman wants Biden to review US Space Command move MORE (D-Colo.). 

Collins, Murkowski and Graham were three of the 14 Senate Republicans who voted for a comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013.

Notably, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe imminent crises facing Joe Biden Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signs daylight savings bill Study: Early unemployment cutoff would cost 16M people 0B MORE (R-Fla.), a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight that crafted the 2013 immigration bill, did not attend Wednesday’s meeting. 

Asked about Rubio’s absence, Durbin said, “I hope he will be” involved.

“I’ll ask him to,” he added.