White House staff members met with a group of senators Tuesday to talk about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has benefited hundreds of thousands of undocumented youths.
The result of the private meeting, first reported by Politico, was a pledge by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to present a list of border security and immigration policy changes to be included in any legislative fix to help DACA recipients. Sources told Politico that Kelly could return with a new list of demands within days.
According to people who attended the meeting, the new plan may come in January, and it would allow nearly 800,000 DACA immigrants, who were brought illegally to the United States as minors, to continue to work and study in the country.
Politico said a half-dozen senators have been working to come up with a bipartisan solution on DACA. They were prompted by President Donald Trump's announcement in September that the DACA program would end. It is set to expire March 5, and work permits that have not been renewed will begin to be phased out at that time.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said senators could not reach an agreement until they knew what the Trump administration was inclined to sign.
"We couldn't finish this product, this bill, until we knew where the administration was. ... And that's why this meeting was so important," Flake told Politico after the meeting with Kelly.
Also on Wednesday, Trump renewed his immigration priorities.
At a Cabinet meeting, the president vowed to end the diversity visa program, known as the the green card lottery, and cut family-based immigration, which critics call chain migration. He also called on Congress to fund his proposed border wall.
"When we take people that are lottery — [other countries] are not putting their best people in the lottery. It's common sense. … They put their worst people into the lottery. And that's what we get, in many cases. So that's not going to be happening anymore. We're going to end it," Trump said.
No near-term DACA solution
Lawmakers in both parties said Tuesday that Congress was not expected to resolve the DACA issue before next year.
Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, also attended the meeting and said the closer officials get to the March deadline "the more nervous I get, not to mention the way these young people feel. I'm sorry that it's taken this long.
"Our belief is that if this matter is not resolved this week ... that we have another chance to finally come up with a bipartisan package of things to include" by mid-January, Durbin said.
Meanwhile, DACA recipients opened Dream Act Central, a tent space on Washington's National Mall that is serving as headquarters for a final push to urge Congress to pass legislation replacing the DACA program.
A large-screen television at the site, which faces Capitol Hill, shows stories of young undocumented immigrants, known informally as Dreamers. The term is based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, that would have provided residence and employment protections for young immigrants similar to those in DACA.