Sen. Jeff Flake announced Thursday that a small, bipartisan group of senators had reached a “deal” on immigration reform, but the White House, and many members of Congress are saying they aren’t interested in the “group of six” compromise bill that funds border efforts, but extends DACA benefits to their illegal immigrant parents.
Republican Sens. Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Cory Gardner (CO), joined with Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (IL), Michael Bennet (CO), and the miraculously-still-in-Congress Bob Menendez (NJ) to ink the deal which they say represents a “moderate” approach to comprehensive immigration reform that preserves both sides’ priorities.
But while details of the “deal” remain sketchy, several bullet points have emerged following the “group of six’s” final meetings on Thursday. According to reports, the bill would provide a “path to citizenship” for DACA recipients (minor children brought to the U.S. illegally by adult parents), even if they haven’t signed up for the program. It would also fund border security efforts to the tune of $1.6 billion, with an additional $1.2 billion available for “other border priorities,” should the need arise.
There is no funding in the bill for a border wall and the bill actually extends some DACA benefits — something most Republicans won’t and shouldn’t be happy about. The “deal” provides for a quasi-amnesty program that allows parents of DACA recipients to apply for a “temporary protected status” that would prevent them from facing deportation until their children come of age.
The White House swiftly undercut the deal, saying that border security has to be the top priority of legislators intent on crafting any immigration compromise, and that the border wall must receive preliminary funding in order for Republicans to come to any agreement on DACA benefits.
In her afternoon press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted, “There has not been a deal reached yet.”
Republicans and Democrats have until January 19 to come up with an immigration deal or the DACA program’s sunset provision will trigger, ending the program on a set date in March 2018. Flake and Durbin seemed confused when speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, claiming they’d worked on the DACA deal for “months,” and that they do know what the next step will be.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn was more hopeful, noting that legislators will likely come together to discuss the best and worst provisions of several draft bills.