The week started with a bipartisan meeting at the White House on DACA and immigration issues in what can only be described as a meeting of mixed messages as the President bounced between various congressional members and their very different positions on the two issues. Ultimately the one thing that was taken away from the President’s meeting was that congressional discussions would focus on four areas: DACA, the lottery visa, family or “chain” migration and boarder security.
The congressional negotiations turned into six senators meeting at length. The six senators were Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Senator Floyd Flake (R-AZ), Senator Corey Gardner (R-CO), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). Senator Durbin has been a long-time sponsor of “DREAMERS” legislation dating back more than a decade sometimes with bipartisan support. He joined onto a bill by Senator Lindsay Graham at the start of this Congress. Senator Flake was involved because he made participation a part of his price to vote for the tax package last December.
There seemed to be optimism over a deal between the six senators last Thursday in the early afternoon when Flake claimed there was a deal. The DACA-immigration deal would have generally included:
• Extended DACA with a path toward citizenship over twelve years with the ability to count some of the time already in DACA status;
• Border Security of $2.7 billion with $1.6 billion for wall planning and some construction;
• Reducing the Visa Lottery by half to 25,000 or a proposal to re-distribute the 50,000 lottery visas;
• And some limitations on family or “chain” migration conditioned on citizenship for some people before other family members can enter.
Cold water was dumped on the momentum when the President’s comments were widely quoted denouncing the allowed entrance of people from Haiti and African countries. The comments were made in another meeting that had included some of the six senators including Senator Durbin who confirmed the President’s comments then confirmed later by Senator Graham via his South Carolina colleague Senator Tim Scott (R-SC). This weekend, Senator Flake, who did not attend this meeting, said he had verified the comments when he talked to other Republicans who had attended and had talked to them before reports of the President’s remarks surfaced.
Discussions continued Friday with a mixed group from the House and Senate, but members were surprised to learn from Homeland Security representatives in the negotiation that they did not represent the official position of the White House.
It is unclear what will happen. The President seemed to suggest over the weekend that a deal won’t happen. In addition, there are some House Republicans who want a vote on a hardline bill. The initial package that the six senators had agreed to had not been vetted by various elements of both parties and both houses. It is possible and perhaps even likely that if Congress can agree to a deal the President will sign whatever he is sent since he has held several different positions over the past week.