Building off momentum from a bipartisan meeting hosted by President Trump, lawmakers are racing to craft a plan to protect so-called ‘Dreamers’–but Democrats and Republicans are still far apart on how to fix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In a news conference Wednesday, the president likely made that negotiation even harder– by insisting again that any immigration deal must include funding for a border wall.
“We need the wall,” he said. “Any solution has to include the wall because without the wall, it all doesn’t work.”
The president’s comments came as congressional leaders huddled at the Capitol to discuss immigration reform. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin attended the meeting. Cornyn told reporters lawmakers have made enough progress in negotiations to potentially announce the framework of an immigration deal by the end of next week.
Democrats want DACA protections to be tied to a spending deal as government funding is set to expire on January 19th, but Republicans insist it won’t be part of a spending bill.
House Republicans have introduced their own proposal, the first piece of legislation to emerge following the president’s meeting with lawmakers. The measure from Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Martha McSally, R-Arizona, dubbed the Securing America’s Future Act, would pair border security funding with stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
For DACA recipients, the Republican measure would allow provide recipients temporary legal status that would require renewal every three years. That status would allow them to work and travel overseas freely, but would require them to “make use of existing paths to green cards,” according to a summary of the legislation. The measure would also end the diversity visa program and terminate the process that allows citizens and green-cards holders to sponsor family members for immigration – which Republicans refer to as chain migration – by allowing only those groups to sponsor spouses and minor children.
The Senate is taking a more bipartisan approach with a so-called “gang of six” – Senators Michelle Bennet, D-Colo., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Bob Menendez, D-N.J. – meeting Wednesday.
“Well, I just know that we can’t wait for the House to actually draft a bill and move it in that process,” Flake said. “It’s gotta start in the Senate and we’ll see where it goes in the House.”
As lawmakers work to find a solution, a federal judge in San Francisco Tuesday night temporarily blocked the administration from ending the DACA program, which applies to roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The administration announced the drawdown of the program in September, saying it would be phased out by March.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge William Alsup said the administration must resume receiving DACA renewal applications for existing enrollees while lawsuits play out in court.
“The ruling last night in no way diminishes the urgency of solving the DACA issue,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
The president reacted to the case by calling the court system “broken and unfair.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called the ruling “outrageous” and said the issue should “go through the normal legislative process.”
While some lawmakers are eyeing a bipartisan deal, President Trump has acknowledged the political landmines that might exist, especially if they turn to comprehensive immigration reform.
“If we do this properly, DACA, you’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform,” the president said Tuesday. “If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care.”
Prominent conservatives have already criticized the president for his immigration comments.