White House to unveil immigration framework

WASHINGTON | The White House announced Wednesday that it would be unveiling a legislative framework on immigration that it hopes can pass both the House and the Senate and land on the president’s desk.

 

The framework to be unveiled Monday “represents a compromise that members of both parties can support,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, as the White House appeared to try to take control of the process amid criticism that the president has taken too much of a back seat during the negotiations and sent mixed signals that have repeatedly upended near-deals.

“After decades of inaction by Congress, it’s time we work together to solve this issue once and for all,” Sanders said.

Meanwhile, senators from both parties started a fresh search for their own compromise immigration legislation, but leaders conceded that the effort won’t be easy and were already casting blame should the effort falter.

Around three dozen senators, evenly divided among Republicans and Democrats, planned to meet late Wednesday in what No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said was a chance to “get people thinking about a framework that might actually work.” Their goal is to produce a bipartisan package to protect from deportation the “Dreamers” — hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the U.S. illegally after being brought here as children — and to provide billions to toughen border security.

“We cannot let those who are anti-immigrant, who call giving the Dreamers hope ‘amnesty,’ block us. Because then we will fail, and it will be on the other side of the aisle that made that happen,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Schumer spoke about 12 hours after President Donald Trump put the onus on him.

“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer fully understands, especially after his humiliating defeat, that if there is no Wall, there is no DACA,” the president tweeted late Tuesday, using the acronym for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed the roughly 700,000 immigrants to remain in the country. “We must have safety and security, together with a strong Military, for our great people!”

Sanders said the White House framework is based on dozens of conversations Trump and his staff have had with members of both parties and that “it addresses all of the different things that we’ve heard from all of the various stakeholders” during the past several months.

“There’s nothing currently on the table that addresses all of the concerns that we feel like brings all of these various stakeholders to the table, like this framework does. And the president wants to lead on this issue, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” she said.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said Trump called him Wednesday morning and wants to provide “dependability for these kids,” but still expects a deal to include money for border security and his promised southern wall, to limit immigrants’ ability to sponsor family members and to end a visa lottery aimed at diversity.

“He’s driving that a DACA solution is something he wants,” Perdue said.

Schumer said Tuesday that he’d pulled back an offer of $25 billion for Trump’s border wall with Mexico. An aide said Schumer had actually withdrawn the offer Sunday night after it became clear that there would be no quick compromise on protecting the Dreamers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said if senators cannot produce a compromise plan by Feb. 8, he would open a debate on immigration legislation that would be “fair to all sides.” That suggests both parties would be allowed to offer amendments.

While Cornyn said he hoped the bipartisan group of senators would produce a measure that can pass the Senate, “it would also have to get the president’s support eventually. Because without his support, I don’t think it would pass the House of Representatives,” which has more conservative views on the topic.

Feb. 8 is the date legislation expires that reopened the government after a three-day shutdown, which began after Democrats demanded movement toward an immigration deal as the price for financing federal agencies.

That has made Feb. 8 the next pressure point for reaching an immigration deal.

But Republicans say a resolution can wait. Trump last year announced that he was ending the Obama-era DACA program, but gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a legislative fix.

The shutdown battle — settled mostly on Trump’s terms — complicated the already difficult search for an immigration pact: GOP hard-liners appeared emboldened, while Democrats absorbed withering criticism from progressives. Neither development seemed likely to push the combatants toward the compromises needed to produce a bill that can pass both the tea party-driven House and the more pragmatic Senate.

On the House side, the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 150 lawmakers, announced its support for a bill written by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, and Michael McCaul, R-Texas. Their plan would offer DACA recipients a three-year renewal of legal status, allowing them to continue to live and work in the country with no special path to citizenship. It also contains a host of stringent features that are anathema to Democrats, including reducing legal immigration by 25 percent, adding border patrol agents and denying certain funding to cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The White House had endorsed that bill, and it appeared to be gaining traction among conservatives. NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for reduced immigration, announcing its support Tuesday.

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