White House chief of staff John Kelly met with top senators to discuss a DACA fix next year

  • White House chief of staff John Kelly met with top senators on Tuesday to discuss policy changes they want included in a potential fix next month for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
  • The Trump administration likely wants changes to border security included in any DACA deal.
  • Lawmakers from both parties say it’s unlikely that they will reach a legislative solution this year, and are working to bring a bill to the Senate floor for a vote in January.

White House officials reportedly met with top senators on Tuesday to hammer out details to be included in a long-anticipated legislative solution for young unauthorised immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

White House chief of staff John Kelly told senators the Trump administration is drawing up a list of asks to present to lawmakers as early as the next few days, Politico reported on Wednesday. Changes to border security are expected to be among the administration’s top priorities.

News of the meeting comes amid reports that Democrats are backing away from their vow to force a vote on a DACA solution this year by threatening a government shutdown.

But the urgency of a legislative fix is growing as Congress approaches the March 5 deadline that the Trump administration set when it first announced it would end DACA.

The Trump administration began phasing out the program in September. Former President Barack Obama enacted the program to offer certain young immigrants who have lived in the US illegally since childhood temporary work authorization and protection from deportation.

At the time of Trump’s announcement, DACA protected roughly 690,000 young immigrants, who are often known as “Dreamers.” Although the deadline is still months away, some DACA recipients have already lost their protection.

‘I’m sorry that it’s taken this long’

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who has pushed various legislative solutions for Dreamers for more than a decade, told Politico that he now expects a bipartisan package with a DACA fix to be introduced by mid-January. He expressed regret that Congress has not yet resolved the issue.

“The closer we get [to the deadline], the more nervous I get, not to mention the way these young people feel,” he said. “I’m sorry that it’s taken this long.”

Though a handful of Democratic senators – including Durbin – have vowed to withhold their support for spending legislation this month if it doesn’t include a DACA fix, other Democrats who face re-election in conservative states have said they’re unwilling to risk a government shutdown.

“We’ve got to get it done, but I’m not drawing a line in the sand that it has to be this week versus two weeks from now,” Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told The Washington Post.

Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, attended the meeting with Kelly and tweeted Wednesday that a bipartisan DACA bill will reach the Senate floor in January.

But it’s unclear whether a bill will actually materialise. Other Republicans have expressed reluctance to act on legislation in the near future.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly in recent weeks he doesn’t view the issue as urgent, since the deadline is still months away. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn even suggested to Reuters on Monday that “the president could extend the deadline if he chose to do so” if Congress fails to enact a solution by March 5.

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