White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters there
is no deal yet on immigration despite claims of an agreement from a bipartisan
group of senators working to resolve the status of young undocumented
“However, we still think we can get there,” Sanders told reporters
at the White House briefing Thursday.
This story will be updated.
A bipartisan group of senators working to resolve the status of young undocumented
immigrants, border security and restrictions on legal migration has offered
an opening bid on an agreement and is seeking support from fellow senators
and President Trump.
Six senators working on immigration issues “have an agreement in
principle. We’re shopping it to our colleagues,” Sen. Jeff
Flake (R-Ariz.) told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the group, added that
“we have answered the call” of Trump, who brought a cross-section
of Democrats and Republicans together at the White House this week and
called on them to reach a deal he can sign.
In addition to Flake and Graham, the group included Sens. Richard J. Durbin
(D-Ill.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Cory
Gardner (R-Colo.), all of whom have worked on immigration issues for several
years and hail from states with large immigrant populations.
The fast-moving developments included a hastily-arranged Oval Office meeting
with Trump on Thursday, where Graham and Durbin presented Trump details
of their plan. The surprise move angered senior Republican leaders and
conservatives who are eager to fulfill Trump’s campaign pledges
on immigration and control floor debate on the issue. But any attempt
to pass immigration and border security legislation will require Democratic
support in the closely-divided Senate.
During the Oval Office meeting, Graham said he told Trump, “This
is our idea, would you consider this? He challenged us to come up with
an idea and we did.”
Graham wouldn’t say how the president responded, but said that coming
up with bipartisan support in the coming days “will matter to the
Flake and Graham said they would not be publicly discussing details of
their plan until they share it with colleagues.
But Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an immigration hard-liner and ally of Trump
who attended the Oval Office meeting, said that the bipartisan plan “is
unacceptable” because of how it deals with family-based migration
policy, a practice that conservatives deride as “chain migration,”
and on ending the diversity lottery program that grants visas to 55,000
people from countries with low immigration each year.
“It doesn’t end chain migration,” Cotton said of the
bipartisan plan. “It merely delays it for an extremely small class
of persons. On the diversity lottery, it simply takes all those visas
and gives them away to other people for no rhyme or reason, it doesn’t
just end the diversity lottery.”
And Cotton said that the plan’s border security proposal “doesn’t
give near enough resources to meet the president’s demands.”
Told of Cotton’s public criticisms, Graham snapped back: “Sen.
Cotton can present his proposal. We presented ours. I’m not negotiating
with Sen. Cotton and let me know when Sen. Cotton has a proposal that
gets a Democrat. I’m dying to look at it.”
Flake added that “I don’t think we’ll get all Republicans
— I never thought that.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at her daily brief,
at her daily briefing: “There has not been a deal reached yet. However
we still think we can get there. . . . We’ve outlined
what we think a deal has to look like on our end.”
The breakthrough comes just days before a spending deadline that most Democrats
are using as leverage for an immigration agreement.
Government funding expires on Jan. 19, and Democrats say they will support
legislation to keep the government operating only if the legislation includes
plans to protect “dreamers.” But the talks have deadlocked
for weeks amid Republican demands that any changes in the young immigrants’
legal status be coupled with changes in border security and some legal
Complicating the talks, Republicans on Wednesday released a flurry of new
legislation designed to placate concerns of conservatives wary of a potential
bipartisan deal — and to address the fate of hundreds of thousands
of other people living in the country under temporary legal protection.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Homeland
Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) and Reps. Raúl
R. Labrador (R-Idaho) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday unveiled
a conservative plan that would grant dreamers an opportunity to apply
for a legal residency that would be renewed every three years. Democrats
and some Republicans reject such a plan.
The bill also would authorize construction of border walls and fencing;
allow federal immigration and security agencies to hire at least 10,000
new agents; end the diversity lottery program; end the ability of new
U.S. citizens to legally move family members into the United States; withhold
federal funding from cities that refuse to help federal agencies enforce
immigration laws; and intensify use of the E-Verify system to check an
employee’s immigration status.
Goodlatte, who attended Thursday’s Oval Office meeting, said on Wednesday
that his legislation “is aligned with the White House’s immigration
priorities” and would “ensure the door remains open to law-abiding
immigrants, and restore the rule of law.”
The proposals have been previously rejected by other Republicans, who say
that such a comprehensive proposal could not pass the badly fractured
Congress and that the bill’s border security measures are too aggressive.
Privately, aides to GOP leaders say the bill would not be able to pass
in the House.
Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), whose Denver-area district is being
closely targeted by Democrats this year, introduced a bill to grant permanent
legal residency to hundreds of thousands of people from El Salvador, Haiti,
Nicaragua and other countries granted residency through the Temporary
Protection Status program.
[Trump administration announces end of immigration protection program for
The Trump administration has made plans to end the program in the coming
years, emphasizing that the program was meant to provide only temporary
legal status and calling on Congress to come up with a permanent solution.
The ongoing fight was sparked by Trump’s decision to end the Obama-era
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the president and
his supporters called an egregious example of executive overreach. But
Trump’s attempts to end the program were upended late Tuesday, when
U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said the nearly 690,000
DACA recipients must retain their work permits and protection from deportation
while a lawsuit challenging the decision to end the program moves forward.
The White House called the injunction “outrageous,” and the
Justice Department has said it will appeal.
[Federal judge gives respite to ‘dreamers,’ says DACA can’t
end while lawsuit is pending]
Negotiators on Capitol Hill said they didn’t think the court ruling
would slow ongoing talks.
David Nakamura, Josh Dawsey and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.
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