GOP rejects DACA deal — even after Dems offer to OK border wall
Democrats said Sunday they’re now willing to accept President Trump’s controversial border wall in exchange for protecting young immigrants from deportation — but Republicans said no deal.
The immigration fight has triggered a government shutdown now in its second day, after Senate Democrats refused to vote for a spending bill without a deal for the immigrants known as Dreamers.
President Trump and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer made a deal at a White House meeting Friday where Schumer agreed to funding for the border wall — but two hours later, the White House reneged, Democrats say. Besides the wall, Republicans are demanding that any deal include an end to chain migration and a visa lottery program.
“Chuck Schumer made what I considered to be a bold and important concession and said, yes, we'll go forward with the wall as long as we do this in a responsible fashion,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number two Senate Democrat, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
RELATED: Scenes from the night of the 2018 government shutdown
“The President embraced it,” he said. “Two hours later, a call from the White House says the deal is off. We're not going to stand by this at all. How can you negotiate with the President under those circumstances, where he agrees face-to-face to move forward with a certain path and then within two hours calls back and pulls the plug?”
Trump ordered an end to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country and get work permits. Unless Congress passes legislation, they’ll become vulnerable to deporation starting in March.
Democrats have long resisted allowing or paying for a border wall, one of Trump’s most prominent and controversial campaign promises which could cost $20 billion.
But even Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a leader of the faction of Democrats most supportive of more liberal immigration policy, said Sunday he’s willing to cave on the wall if it means sparing hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients.
“If that’s their ransom call, I say pay it,” Gutierrez said on “This Week.”
“I think the wall is a monumental waste of taxpayer money. It's to build a monument to stupidity, and it's just idiotic,” he said. “As hurtful as it is to people like me and others in this country, we are ready to sacrifice that so that Dreamers can have freedom in this country.”
But White House officials and Congressional Republicans said a wall alone is not enough. Any deal must also end so-called chain migration, which allows legal immigrants to bring family members into the country, and the diversity visa lottery program, which allows citizens of countries underrepresented among U.S. immigrants to apply for green cards by lottery.
“These are programs that Americans want ended. Why are we delaying ending those programs for a future debate? We need to make sure we don’t end up back at the same table a couple years from now having the same debate on immigration. We want all these issues solved right now,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told “This Week.”
He said that in addition to replacing DACA, the White House is willing to consider expanding it to cover more immigrants in exchange for those changes.
“We feel like we’re making progress on lots of areas. What’s befuddling, then, is why are we shutting down the government?” Short said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan took the same position. “We want to move from a system of immigration based on family relations to one based on skills and merit,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Ryan said negotiations were proceeding well until the shutdown happened when Senate Democrats voted against a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
“If we were saying, for instance, we’re never going to do a DACA solution, we’re going to kick these kids out, then I might understand Democrats getting frustrated,” he said.
“But what’s baffling about this...is we were in negotiations on how to solve this problem, and then they blew that up and stopped these negotiations...We should open the government back up and resume negotiations.”
Absent an immigration deal, legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate sometime Sunday or early Monday morning to fund the government for three weeks, shorter than the four-week proposal that failed Friday.
Congressional leaders weren’t able to predict Sunday morning whether that would succeed.
“We’re basically waiting to see today whether the Senate will vote on this or not, and have the votes for it,” Ryan said. “We have agreed that we would accept that in the House. So we will see some time today whether or not we have the votes for that. And that’s really where we are right now.”
Durbin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that for the resolution to succeed, there must be “a basic agreement on what we’ll do in those three weeks, not just a calendar date.”
Lawmakers on both sides have switched positions since the last government shutdown, forced by Republicans and criticized by Democrats in 2013. Durbin at the time demanded that the government reopen before negotiations could proceed.
“It’s not a good thing to do at any point,” he said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “We have reached a desperate situation.”