Seung Min Kim et al., Politico, December 19, 2017
At a Tuesday afternoon meeting with nearly a dozen senators deeply involved in immigration policy, White House chief of staff John Kelly pledged that the administration will soon present a list of border security and other policy changes it wants as part of a broader deal on so-called Dreamers, according to people who attended the meeting. The plan could come in a matter of days, senators said.
About a half-dozen senators have been negotiating a bipartisan package prompted by Trump’s decision to kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era executive action that granted work permits to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came here as minors. Yet the senators could not fully flesh out a deal before they knew what Trump was willing to sign.
Congressional Republicans and the White House have long said any DACA deal would need to be paired with security and other enforcement measures. Democrats say that’s fine as long as the provisions weren’t too onerous. But the border security question has been a sticking point for weeks, as senators swapped proposals without cutting a deal, so far.
And while liberal Democrats and grass-roots activists are pressuring Congress to enact permanent legal protections for Dreamers this year, both Democrats and Republicans at the meeting with Kelly said there was a consensus that legislation wouldn’t pass before lawmakers leave Washington. It was one of the clearest sign yet that a Dreamers agreement won’t, to the chagrin of liberals, come before 2018.
Flake said he believes he has a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hold a cloture vote on the floor on an immigration deal by mid-January, before the next likely deadline to fund the government, Jan. 19.
Senators also pressed the White House on other immigration demands, such as an overhaul of the nation’s asylum system or a change in policy toward unaccompanied minors who are apprehended at the southern border, and whether they needed to be included in the current DACA talks.
The bipartisan group of senators — Flake and Durbin, Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) — has discussed a legalization plan that would marry the DREAM Act, drafted by Durbin and Graham, with a more conservative proposal for Dreamers written by Tillis and Lankford, Flake said.
Those seven senators attended Tuesday’s meeting with Kelly, as did Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia.