Trump Lays Out Immigration Path in Key Step to Avoiding Shutdown
published Jan 9, 2018 12:27:28 PM, by Laura Litvan, Anna Edgerton and Jennifer Epstein
President Donald Trump indicated he’s willing to split contentious immigration proposals into two stages, providing protections for young immigrants known as dreamers and increasing border security first, leaving tougher negotiations on comprehensive legislation for later.
The president’s position, laid out Tuesday as he met with lawmakers from both parties at the White House, may help break a stalemate that’s held up an agreement on budget limits and spending as a deadline to avert a government shutdown approaches on Jan. 19.
Trump said he would support a “clean” bill that provides a legislation fix to replace a now ended Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, along with border security as part of a broader compromise on spending.
He didn’t specify whether that meant his demands to restrict legal immigration, including family preferences and a visa lottery, could be deferred.
Heading into the meeting, Democrats and Republicans were standing firm on their widely divergent positions on immigration and spending, threatening the chances for a deal to raise budget limits and to pass a stopgap funding measure to keep the government operating past Jan. 19.
Democrats have demanded legislation that would lift the threat of deportation for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants be part of any agreement.
“Maybe we can do something,” Trump said as he began the meeting.
The negotiations have been made more difficult by Trump’s shifting and sometimes contradictory statements about his goals for the immigration legislation. After promising early in his term to deal compassionately with the undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, the president recently has emphasized tougher measures that appeal to his base: building a wall on the border with Mexico, ending the visa lottery system and restricting family-based immigration policies.
Democrats have said many of Trump’s demands are too extreme and can’t be included in a compromise.
Central to the stand-off is Trump’s action to discontinue President Barack Obama’s DACA policy which provided deportation protections for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. Trump gave lawmakers until March to come up with a legislative solution.
Democrats are demanding that a DACA fix be part of a year-end spending deal. They also want the spending legislation to include an agreement on new budget caps that provides for an equal boost for domestic and defense programs, a disaster relief package, Obamacare stabilization measures and other provisions. Republicans want to see a bigger boost for defense spending.
With Republicans holding just 51 out of 100 Senate seats, at least nine Democratic votes are needed to push a deal through the Senate, and many Republicans say Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has tremendous leverage. Democrats have yet to indicate whether they would supply enough votes to simply extend government spending authority past Jan.19 to keep talks going.
“Senator Schumer basically has a veto card” on government spending and immigration, said Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican and close Trump ally.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said Tuesday that Republicans also want a solution for the young immigrants, some of whom are already losing their protections ahead of an early March full expiration. He also said he’s optimistic about prospects for the spending package.
“We’re hopeful and confident these bipartisan talks will bear fruit,” Ryan told reporters.
Seven senators have been meeting for weeks without success to find a bipartisan immigration compromise.
The White House meeting includes conservatives such as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, and Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican. Democrats include Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, both among the Senate’s strongest advocates for the young immigrants known as the “dreamers.”
On Monday, the No. 2 GOP senator, John Cornyn of Texas, accused Democrats of holding “hostage” any agreement on a spending bill to prevent a government shutdown until they get assurances that young undocumented immigrants will be shielded from deportation. He comments came despite the lack of any accord of the broad spending limits needed to begincrafting the budget bill.
Trump has been sending mixed signals for months. He told ABC News a year ago that the young immigrants “shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart.” But after getting backlash from his supporters when he suggested he would negotiate with Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Trump has taken a harder line.
“We want the wall,” Trump said at a news conference Saturday at Camp David in Maryland. “The wall is going to happen, or we’re not going to have DACA,”
Schumer of New York blamed the White House for hampering the immigration talks.
“President Trump is fighting for an empty symbol” with his continued push for a wall, Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. If there is a government closure, “make no mistake about it, the government shutdown will fall entirely on his shoulders.”
What a “wall” would look like has been the subject of debate among Republicans. Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Republican, told reporters Monday that “a wall can bedefined in a lot of different ways.”
Marc Short, the White House’s top liaison with Congress, said late Monday that he’s hopeful for a bipartisan agreement on spending and immigration, saying that the measures could move as separate pieces of legislation.
Democrats are under pressure from their party’s base to aid the dreamers. In a conference call Tuesday, nearly a dozen groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human and MoveOn.org, called for Congress to move stand-alone legislation granting the expulsion protections and a pathway to citizenship for the young immigrants.
–With assistance from Arit John.To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org ;Anna Edgerton in Washington at email@example.com ;Jennifer Epstein in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at email@example.com Justin Blum
© 2018 Bloomberg L.P