Lawmakers are hopeful for an immigration deal, despite ongoing disagreement over details
By Evan Wilt
(WNS)–Lawmakers appear closer than ever to agreeing on an immigration bill with a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Here’s where the debate stands after a topsy-turvy few days.
More than 20 lawmakers from both parties sat down with President Donald Trump on Tuesday to define terms and determine what kind of deal the president would sign. The group left with four areas to work on: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery system, and DACA.
Hours later, a federal judge in California ruled against the Trump administration, ordering it to allow some DACA recipients to reapply for protected status. But thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children still risk deportation after March 5 if Congress does nothing. Lawmakers say they’re closing in on a deal.
The president made the task more difficult last weekend after he insisted the DACA deal include a border wall, with a price tag of $18 billion over the next decade.
Both parties are willing to include new border security measures in the bill but aren’t sold on Trump’s plan.
“I support the border security but I do have more questions about the cost,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told me. “The proposal is roughly, by my math, about $25 million a mile.”
Kennedy thinks the wall could be cheaper and wants to make sure taxpayers get the best deal possible.
Democrats continue to say they support new border security measures but stop short of supporting the wall.
“We think the wall is stupid—it’s a waste of money,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told me. “Especially since the president said Mexico would pay for it, why would we want to break his promise? Let him find funding from Mexico.”
Trump maintains he wants a wall, an intractable request given an immigration bill needs Democratic votes to pass. But the definition of “wall” continues to shift, leaving room for a compromise.
The president said Tuesday large stretches of the border wouldn’t need a wall since rivers and mountains create natural barriers. GOP leaders also remain confident Trump will sign whatever bill they are able to pass. During his meeting with lawmakers, the president said he would “take the heat” if some voters don’t like the final product.
In the lower chamber, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., vowed he would not bring forward an immigration bill without consensus from members. In spite of that, Republican Reps. Michael McCaul of Texas, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, and Martha McSally of Arizona released their own plan Wednesday, likely only to appease immigration hardliners.
The Securing America’s Future Act outlines a $30 billion package for the border wall, new technology, and hiring more border patrol agents. It also would allow DACA beneficiaries to apply for a three-year renewable legal status without a pathway to citizenship. On Wednesday evening the White House signaled it would support the bill, but it likely won’t draw support from moderate Republicans and Democrats.
With nearly 800,000 DACA recipients at risk, evangelicals continue to pressure lawmakers to set aside differences and find a solution quickly.
But both political parties still have to reconcile key differences on what border security measures are palatable in order to move forward.
“The problem is the Democrats want all the dessert and they don’t want to eat any spinach,” Kennedy said.