Se­nate group, White House re­main at odds on DACA deal

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Alan Fram and An­drew Tay­lor

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple ... don’t want this pine nee­dle of a pro­posal that was on the ta­ble to­day.” Sen. Tom Cot­ton, R-Ark., on bi­par­ti­san Se­nate group’s agree­ment on im­mi­gra­tion re­form

WASH­ING­TON — Three Repub­li­can and three Demo­cratic se­na­tors said Thurs­day that they’d reached an elec­tion-year ac­cord to pro­tect hun­dreds of thou­sands of young im­mi­grants from de­por­ta­tion and to bol­ster bor­der se­cu­rity. But the White House and sev­eral GOP law­mak­ers said they’d not ac­cepted the pro­posal, plung­ing the is­sue back into un­cer­tainty just eight days be­fore a dead­line that threat­ens a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Two of the bar­gain­ers — No. 2 Se­nate Demo­crat Richard Durbin of Illi­nois and Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C. — trav­eled to the White House early Thurs­day to shop their frame­work to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in the Oval Of­fice. The pact also in­cludes re­stric­tions on im­mi­grants’ abil­i­ties to bring rel­a­tives to the U.S. and ter­mi­na­tion of a visa lot­tery sys­tem that has helped gain en­try for peo­ple from African and other di­verse coun­tries.

“I’m hope­ful it will lead to a break­through,” Gra­ham, who has forged a close re­la­tion­ship with Trump de­spite their prior po­lit­i­cal ri­valry, told re­porters after­ward.

The bi­par­ti­san group in­cluded Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who ini­tially an­nounced the agree­ment, and other proim­mi­gra­tion se­na­tors who have been work­ing for months in hopes of se­cur­ing leg­is­la­tion to ex­tend Obama-era pro­tec­tions called De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals, or DACA.

“Sen. Flake’s bi­par­ti­san group — the only bi­par­ti­san group that has been ne­go­ti­at­ing a DACA fix — has struck a deal,” said Flake spokesman Ja­son Sa­muels. “The next step is tak­ing it to the White House.”

But in an af­ter­noon of drama and con­fus­ing de­vel­op­ments, three other GOP law­mak­ers — in­clud­ing two hard­lin­ers on im­mi­gra­tion — were also in Trump’s of­fice for Thurs­day’s meet­ing and said it did not pro­duce the re­sults Gra­ham and Durbin were hop­ing for.

“There has not been a deal reached yet,” said White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders. But she added, “We haven’t quite got­ten there, but we feel like we’re close.”

Un­der­scor­ing the pit­falls fac­ing the ef­fort, other Repub­li­cans also un­der­cut the sig­nif­i­cance of the deal the half-dozen se­na­tors hoped to sell to Trump.

“How do six peo­ple bind the other 94 in the Se­nate? I don’t get that,” said No. 2 Se­nate Repub­li­can John Cornyn of Texas.

Cornyn said the six law­mak­ers were hop­ing for a deal and “ev­ery­one would fall in line. The pres­i­dent made it clear to me on the phone less than an hour ago that he wasn’t go­ing to do that.”

The six se­na­tors have been meet­ing for months to find a way to re­vive pro­tec­tions for young im­mi­grants who ar­rived in the U.S. as chil­dren and are here il­le­gally.

“Sen. Flake’s bi­par­ti­san group — the only bi­par­ti­san group that has been ne­go­ti­at­ing a DACA fix — has struck a deal. The next step is tak­ing it to the White House.” Ja­son Sa­muels Spokesman for Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

Trump ended the DACA pro­gram last year but has given Congress un­til March 5 to find a way to keep it alive.

Fed­eral agen­cies will run out of money and have to shut down if law­mak­ers don’t pass leg­is­la­tion ex­tend­ing their fi­nanc­ing by Jan. 19.

Some Democrats are threat­en­ing to with­hold their votes — which Repub­li­cans will need to push that leg­is­la­tion through Congress — un­less an im­mi­gra­tion ac­cord is reached.

Cornyn said the real work for a bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion deal will be achieved by a group of four lead­ing law­mak­ers — the No. 2 Repub­li­cans and Democrats in both the House and the Se­nate. That group met for the first time this week.

The im­mi­gra­tion ef­fort seemed to re­ceive a boost Tues­day when Trump met with two dozen law­mak­ers and agreed to seek a bi­par­ti­san way to re­sus­ci­tate the pro­gram. The group agreed to also in­clude pro­vi­sions strength­en­ing se­cu­rity — which for Trump means build­ing parts of a wall along the bor­der with Mex­ico — curb­ing im­mi­grants’ rel­a­tives from com­ing here and re­strict­ing the visa lot­tery.

Also in Thurs­day’s Oval Of­fice meet­ing were House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and two con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers who’ve taken a hard line on im­mi­gra­tion: Sen. Tom Cot­ton, RArk., and House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Good­latte, R-Va.

One per­son with di­rect knowl­edge of that meet­ing said Durbin and Gra­ham hadn’t ex­pected the three GOP law­mak­ers to be there. It was un­clear why the three other Repub­li­cans at­tended.

A Repub­li­can with knowl­edge of Thurs­day’s meet­ing said the White House hastily in­vited Cot­ton to join the im­mi­gra­tion dis­cus­sion.

That Repub­li­can said there were sev­eral hang-ups in the meet­ing, in­clud­ing whether thou­sands of im­mi­grants into the U.S. from coun­tries that have suf­fered dis­as­ters, in­clud­ing El Sal­vador, Gu­atemala and Haiti, should con­tinue to re­ceive tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus.

The bi­par­ti­san se­na­tors of­fered to end the visa lot­tery pro­gram in ex­change for con­tin­u­ing that tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus, one per­son said.

Cot­ton later de­clared that Democrats have yet to give enough on bor­der se­cu­rity and other im­mi­gra­tion is­sues even though he and other Repub­li­cans are will­ing to bend on the is­sue of child­hood ar­rivals.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple don’t want that style of im­mi­gra­tion re­form,” Cot­ton told re­porters about the bi­par­ti­san se­na­tors’ of­fer. “They cer­tainly don’t want this pine nee­dle of a pro­posal that was on the ta­ble to­day.”

He later called it a “joke” of a pro­posal.

Any im­mi­gra­tion deal would face hur­dles win­ning con­gres­sional ap­proval.

Many Democrats would op­pose pro­vid­ing sub­stan­tial sums to­ward Trump’s cam­paign prom­ise to build a wall along the bor­der with Mex­ico.

Many His­panic and lib­eral mem­bers of the party op­pose steps to­ward cur­tail­ing im­mi­gra­tion such as end­ing the visa lot­tery and re­strict­ing the rel­a­tives that le­gal im­mi­grants could bring to the U.S.

Among Repub­li­cans, some con­ser­va­tives are in­sist­ing on go­ing fur­ther than the steps that Trump has sug­gested. They want to re­duce le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, re­quire em­ploy­ers to ver­ify work­ers’ cit­i­zen­ship and block fed­eral grants to so­called “sanc­tu­ary ci­ties” that hin­der fed­eral anti-im­mi­grant ef­forts.

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