LAWMAKERS bristle at Trump immigration plan.
WASHINGTON — House Republicans voiced skepticism and outright opposition Tuesday to President Donald Trump’s immigration plan, signaling a tough path ahead for any deal regarding the nation’s young illegal aliens.
The concerns came from a range of GOP lawmakers, not just immigration hard-liners. In a sign that the issue was roiling both parties, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — comprised entirely of Democrats — complained to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday about his one-onone talks with Trump over the price of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The caucus is increasingly concerned that prospects are fading before a March 5 deadline for a deal to protect roughly 1.8 million illegal aliens brought to the country as children.
The White House framework released last week would offer a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship to those illegal aliens in exchange for $25 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and other changes.
“The president’s suggestion is going to be difficult for a lot of us,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. “I think all of us want the DACA problem solved. But it may be a bridge too far.”
Roe was referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that former President Barack Obama created to offer temporary work permits to those illegal aliens brought to the U.S. as children. At Trump’s deadline to end the program, the bulk of work permits will begin to expire, exposing hundreds of thousands of those illegal aliens to deportation unless Congress acts.
Democrats were angered about the White House proposal because it would severely limit legal immigration by family members of citizens and others — but opposition from the right threatens to leave the plan with scant support from any quarter. Lawmakers face a Feb. 8 deadline to avert another government shutdown and are trying to strike a deal before then.
Emerging from a private GOP meeting where the issue was discussed, Roe said he is open to allowing legal status for the deferred-action-youths but that he does not s upport granting them citizenship, which he argued would put them ahead of others trying to enter the United States legally.
Others had similar concerns. Rep. James Renacci, R-Ohio, who is running for the U.S. Senate, said: “The devil’s always in the details … I have some stipulations in there, just not automatic citizenship.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said Trump’s plan would take major adjustments and that afterward, “there might be some support.”
“How do we perfect that to make sure that there’s not a special pathway to citizenship? How do we perfect that to make sure that indeed we’re not dealing with it today and dealing with it again in 10 years?” Meadows asked. “At this point, to suggest we have enough definition to that would be inaccurate.”
Senate Democrats forced a three-day partial government shutdown earlier this month over immigration. In its wake, lawmakers in both parties have been trying to reach a deal, but the obstacles are enormous, given entrenched positions on both sides.
In the meeting with Hispanic lawmakers, Schumer explained how his Jan. 19 meeting with Trump came together so quickly, leaving him little time to consult with colleagues, according to attendees and aides familiar with the meeting.
Schumer; his deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., met with members of the caucus. Schumer and Pelosi have vowed to keep the group abreast of ongoing talks, given that they represent most of the people directly affected by any policy changes.
But a member in the meeting said it became a “testy” exchange when Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., a first-term lawmaker, pressed Schumer to explain his talks with Trump. Others in the room expressed concern that Democrats are now negotiating from a position of weakness after plunging the government into a shutdown and agreeing to restart operations just three days later.
Schumer agreed that generally, Democrats hold a bad hand: “We have a pair of fours. We don’t have a straight flush,” he said, according to two attendees, granted anonymity to discuss a private meeting.
Barragan, whose Los Angeles district is home to thousands of the deferred-action participants, said she confronted Schumer “so that he knows and that leadership knows that [constituents] feel that we’re turning our backs on them and that the strategy that was discussed seems to be changing.”
Information for this article was contribute by Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post.