White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said Tuesday he’s optimistic lawmakers will find a path forward on an immigration deal that can pass both chambers, but it’s unlikely to happen before the end of the week.
Lawmakers face mounting pressure to find a permanent legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the Obama-era initiative that extended temporary legal status to foreign nationals who illegally entered the country as minors — with Democrats threatening to withhold their votes on a spending bill needed to keep the government funded past Jan. 19.
“I think that we’re optimistic that we’ll get a deal — I think this week would be fairly Herculean,” Short told reporters following a meeting on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Immigration talks hit a road bump following a meeting at the White House Thursday, after President Donald Trump allegedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “sh*thole countries” during negotiations. Following the discussion, Trump repeatedly took to social media to blast Democrats, alleging Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin misrepresented his remarks to the media, “blew DACA” and “is hurting our military.”
Despite the tensions that arose from the meeting, Short said he’s confident progress is being made despite the timeline remaining unclear.
“We’ve been anxious for a deal for awhile — keep in mind that General Kelly went to Congress last year and made the pitch that we should get this done,” Short continued. “We made the appeal we set up our priorities back in October. So, we have not had sort of an artificial deadline. I think that there are others who conflate this and want to tie it to a budget caps deal — we’ve been ready to deal with it all along.”
While Democrats have long pushed for a clean vote on the DREAM Act, which would provide conditional permanent resident status for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, Short said it’s not in the cards. Top Republicans are advocating for a broader immigration package that addresses chain migration, border security and the visa lottery program in addition to a DACA fix.
“That’s not what we’re looking at,” Short said. “I think that we’re focused on the DACA population for now.”
The principal negotiators — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Durbin — are expected to meet Wednesday to further discussions.