With seven working days until a government shutdown, immigration remains a key factor in negotiations over a spending deal. Enter President Donald Trump, who is taking a more-active-than-usual role in bringing Democrats and Republicans to the table to work out a deal that would address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and border security.
While all sides say the negotiations are going well, using words like “intense” and “serious” today, there are still serious issues that need to be resolved.
As Sen. Thom Tillis pointed out, most of the work on big agreements like this doesn’t get done until the 11th hour anyway.
“You know how it works around here. You’ve got a lot of work to do and then all the work get done in the remaining twenty percent of the time you need to get it done,” he told reporters.
Here’s a look at all the individual components of an immigration deal:
Standalone bill, or included with budget deal? Senate Democrats are insisting that immigration be included as part of a deal to fund the government before Jan. 19. But when asked whether he will tell Democrats to vote against the funding deal if it does NOT include protection for Dreamers, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer whiffed. Republicans, for their part, prefer that the immigration bill be dealt with separately.
DACA recipients – What happens to them? Most lawmakers agree that something should be done to provide a fix to permanently safeguard DREAMers from deportation. The question is what? At least two Senate Republicans – Tillis and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who both attended a meeting on immigration with Trump today – have said that the parties are discussing a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, and that there is bipartisan support for such an approach, but nothing has been decided on that front yet.
Border security – What does that look like? Trump mentioned at the meeting with senators today that any DACA bill “must secure the border with a wall.” But most senators are interpreting that broadly. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) alluded to what a final agreement will look like during an interview on ABC’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast yesterday, before he attended today's White House meeting: “In some places it’s a traditional wall, in other places its technology, and in other places its traditional manpower. But I don't think it's going to be a 2,000-mile tapeworm along our border, 30 feet tall.” Tillis told reporters that the White House and congressional leaders did not discuss details of the border security component today.
Chain/family migration Republicans are intent on ending the process of what they call “chain migration” that allows immigrants to sponsor their family members. This has not been a huge issue of contention with Democrats but they will likely use it as a bargaining tool for other parts of the immigration deal because ending the practice is so important to Trump and the GOP.
Diversity visa lottery Ending the diversity visa lottery, which is how the late-October New York City truck assailant got to the United States, is also a big priority of Republicans. Schumer, for one, has also said in the past that the program has outlived its usefulness, so it’s likely this program in its current form gets cut. It could be replaced with a similar program run like a lottery, but one that is merit -based, in which applicants have already lined up an employer stateside. President Trump has expressed support for that type of system.