President Donald Trump made clear in a Thursday meeting with Senate Republicans that he would not support amnesty for some illegal immigrants as part of the year-end appropriations bill.
Trump and congressional Republicans have to cut a deal on the debt limit at year’s end, thanks in part to a quick deal Trump cut with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in early September.
The deal startled congressional Republicans because it indicated Trump would cut deals with the Democratic minority and just enough Republicans to make major legislation flow. Trump was bitterly disappointed when the Senate GOP majority could not pass the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
Trump also indicated in September that he would cut a deal on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Barack Obama's 2012 executive order, which gave temporary deportation relief to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Trump forced the Democrats to the table on DACA when he revoked the order in early September.
Approximately 690,000 adults now have work permits, Social Security numbers and driver's licenses through DACA. Democrats were hoping to use the year-end budget negotiations to grant them formal legal status and a path to citizenship. Senate Republicans said on Thursday after meeting with Trump that the president told them that the debt-ceiling talks were not the time to discuss deferred action or any form of permanent amnesty.
"There was also a consensus that anyone on the other side of the aisle who thinks that they're just going to codify DACA in the year-end appropriations bill, it may not be very well-received," said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), speaking to reporters.
The nation's debt ceiling has to be lifted by year's end to avoid a government shutdown. Trump agreed to a quick fix in September for three months. Republicans would like a longer fix in December, one that extends past the 2018 midterm elections next November.
Ideally, both parties would like to also get other legislative items inserted in the debt deal, as the spending bill is a must-pass priority. So Senate Republicans have been working President Trump to keep immigration issues out of it.
But now Trump's demands on an immigration compromise next year are coming more into focus. Trump and congressional Republicans such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) hope for a larger immigration package next year, one that will include a border wall, more border security, and an end to "chain migration," in which one immigrant brings in several family members, and all of them in turn bring in several other family members.
After Tuesday's terrorist attack in New York City by a Muslim immigrant who was admitted via the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, Trump appears to be in no mood to cut sweet deals with Democrats. Schumer himself wrote the legislative language that created the diversity lottery. Trump called Wednesday for it to be abolished.
Cotton and other immigration hawks have also been pushing the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, which would cut legal immigration numbers and transform America's immigration system into a merit-based system. Trump supports the bill.
But Cotton indicated the RAISE Act and changes to guest-worker programs will be left out of a larger immigration compromise next year, according to The Hill.
"If you keep trying to add more and more into the bill, I think it likely collapses under its own weight," Cotton told reporters.
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