WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump and Republican senators agreed not to deal with a needed fix for young immigrants in must-pass year-end spending legislation, according to some GOP lawmakers who visited the White House on Thursday.
Instead, they said, a solution would likely wait until next year for some 800,000 immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children. Those immigrants, known by supporters as Dreamers, are in limbo after Trump announced he was ending temporary deportation protections granted by the Obama administration and giving Congress until March to come up with a fix.
Democrats have indicated they want to use a year-end spending bill to force action on Dreamers. Their votes will likely be needed to pass spending legislation to keep the government running, so the Trump-GOP stance may not end up prevailing.
“No immigration bill on the omnibus or any other must-pass piece of legislation in 2017,” said GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas after exiting the meeting with Trump. “He agreed to that, as does the Senate leadership, and I think the vast majority of Republican senators.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said using the so-called “omnibus” spending bill to resolve the status of Dreamers was “the pipe dream of some Democrats.”
“It’s more likely than not to be part of a January-February time frame,” Cornyn said of dealing with immigration legislation.
Immigrant advocates have been pushing for action. In September, Democratic leaders said they had a deal with Trump to enshrine protections for the immigrants in exchange for border security measures short of a border wall. But the supposed deal immediately came into dispute and now appears to have totally unraveled if it existed at all.
Still, the Senate’s top Democrat voiced optimism.
“There’s good Republican support for DACA and I think we can get it done,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, using the shorthand for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., reminded Republicans that they need Democratic votes to pass the spending bill that expires in December or face a shutdown.
“Unless Republicans can keep the government open without Democratic votes, this is not their decision to make,” Crowley said. “I have yet to see any evidence that they will be able to do that.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said Republicans are trying to take away something that Democrats secured and trade for border security and other items they couldn’t get otherwise.
“I’ve been at this a long time and I’m not going to allow you to trade against a gain and something that we have accomplished as Americans. It took a lot of work to get,” Gutierrez said. “We got it done. And we should fight for it.”
Cotton said helping those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program needs to come with measures designed to enhance enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws as well as ending what he called “chain migration,” where American citizens or lawful permanent residents sponsor family members to join them in the U.S. Cotton said that under the change he seeks, sponsors would only be able to get green cards for their spouse and their minor children.
“Ending chain migration is essential to a DACA compromise, in my opinion,” Cotton said.
The president tweeted on the topic of immigration shortly after the meeting, but didn’t mention the DACA program. Instead, he focused on Cotton’s concern.
“Congress must end chain migration so that we can have a system that is SECURITY BASED! We need to make AMERICA SAFE!” Trump tweeted.
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