Politico

House meeting on Dreamers yields little

Written by Lisa

House leaders can’t even agree on how long they have to find a legislative solution for Dreamers, throwing another kink in the already delicate talks to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) met with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other Democrats involved in the Dreamer talks Wednesday afternoon.

“This afternoon the speaker and majority leader met with a number of House Democrats at their request to discuss DACA, and they reiterated that any solution needs to address border security and enforcement, which are the root causes of the problem,” AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for Ryan, said in a statement, referring to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. “Discussions among the Republican conference will continue in the coming weeks.”

Congressional leaders left the meeting tight-lipped — “We understand each other,” Pelosi quipped as she exited the Speaker’s office — but sources said afterward that both sides appear far from agreement on the looming deadline.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) later Wednesday left dinner with Trump signaling that the president shared their sense of urgency to pass a bill providing certainty for Dreamers.

“We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the President. The discussion focused on DACA,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement after dinner.

“We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”

The dinner agreement could change the DACA discussion on Capitol Hill. Earlier, during the House meeting, Republican leaders insisted they had six months, until March, to codify protections for Dreamers.

That’s the runway President Donald Trump said he was giving Congress last week after deciding to end DACA, the Obama-era program that grants work permits to nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought here as children.

But Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other top Democrats insist the issue must be fixed months sooner — even pushing for action in the next few weeks.

Democrats want to see a legislative solution by Oct. 5, the deadline for current DACA recipients whose permits expire during the six-month period to renew their applications.

Both sides privately agree that deadline is unlikely. The House is out for recess next week and Republican leaders have barely started talking to their conference about what kind of immigration package their members could support.

In the meantime, Democratic leaders said they plan to continue to play hardball, threatening to push a discharge petition in the coming weeks or trying to attach a Dreamer bill to other must-pass legislation.

Democratic leaders also made clear that if DACA isn’t addressed before the current Dec. 8 government funding deadline, Republicans would have to include a legislative fix in the spending bill if they want Democratic votes.

Republican leaders stressed the Wednesday meeting was just a “listening session” and not the start of formal negotiations, according to multiple sources.

Ryan also brought up the idea of convening working groups in the coming weeks that include members from the Homeland Security and Judiciary committees. Pelosi pushed back on the idea somewhat, according to sources, saying certain Judiciary Republicans are likely to do nothing but try to block an immigration deal.

But Republicans may be forced to act sooner than they want. President Donald Trump has said he wants to see a legislative solution sooner rather than later, reiterating that request to a dozen House moderates during a meeting at the White House earlier in the day.

Democratic leaders did acknowledge any deal offering legal status for Dreamers will have to include some border security provisions to entice Republicans.

Pelosi suggested a border security bill sponsored by Homeland Security Committee leaders Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) in 2013 that received strong bipartisan support could be a good starting point for discussion.

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