White House Chief of Staff John Kelly huddled with lawmakers Wednesday to discuss potential solutions for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Capitol Hill, as Congress continues to struggle to reach a bipartisan immigration deal.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) said it was a “positive discussion,” but expressed disappointment Kelly didn’t present them with a potential plan to overcome the immigration impasse.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Kelly didn’t bring a proposal and didn’t bring us a solution and a way forward,” Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois told reporters following the meeting. “I thought since the general knew so well the position of this caucus that to reiterate it would now be the best use of time, but reiterate we did.”
Gutiérrez said he was encouraged Kelly was open to looking at a bipartisan bill co-authored by GOP Rep. Will Hurd of Texas and Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California aimed at preserving DACA.
“He said, ‘This was the first I’ve heard about the Agular-Herd, but if this is the best we can do this president will sign it,'” Gutiérrez told reporters. “And I was very heartened to hear that because we talk about a proposal of moving forward.”
Gutiérrez noted Kelly said certain things may need to be changed in the final bill that’s brought to the floor, but is hopeful his assurances “rounding up 11 million people is not a reasonable solution as the end game” will lead to a viable solution.
Democrats are pushing for an agreement to be reached before the end of the week, threatening to withhold their votes on a must-pass short-term spending bill unless they reach a consensus. With current government funding set to expire Friday at midnight, lawmakers are facing increased pressure to come strike a deal that can pass both chambers.
Bipartisan negotiations have been taking place for weeks, with lawmakers in both parties asserting they are committed passing a permanent legislative solution on DACA, the Obama-era initiative that extended temporary legal status to foreign nationals who illegally entered the country as minors. While talks ongoing, top negotiators continue to grapple with finding a plan that satisfies both parties.
Democrats have long pushed for legislation that provides a path to citizenship for Dreamers while Republicans are looking to pass a broader immigration package bill that increases border security — including funding for a wall along the southern border — broader immigration package that addresses “chain migration,” border security and the visa lottery program in addition to a DACA fix.
Kelly said he “has no idea” when chief congressional negotiators — which include House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip John Cornyn, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin — will lay out a plan.
“I know they’re talking and that’s the beginning of the process right,” he told reporters. “When they need us to come in and talk to them we’ll do that.”
GOP Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo — who attended a meeting with Kelly along with a handful of his Republican colleagues in the House late Wednesday morning — said he thinks they are getting close to a deal, adding he’s confident the administration is open to providing a path to citizenship for Dreamers.
“I think for now if we really keep the focus on those who would be immediately aggrieved, meaning the DACA recipients the Dreamers who are in the DACA program, and obviously build out the deal on the other side as well,” he told reporters. “That’s probably the safest.”