Immigration negotiations: Lots of talk, little progress

There are several groups in Congress who have been meeting regularly to try to reach a breakthrough on stalled immigr...

Posted: Feb 1, 2018 4:48 PM
Updated: Feb 1, 2018 4:48 PM

There are several groups in Congress who have been meeting regularly to try to reach a breakthrough on stalled immigration talks. But that doesn't mean they're making much progress.

Lawmakers are quick to bemoan the lack of forward motion on a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, a program that protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children that President Donald Trump is ending.

The talks' lack of progress sets the stage for the next funding deadline, February 8

Congress still remains far from a clear path forward

The lack of progress stands in contrast to what Trump called in his State of the Union address Tuesday a "bipartisan approach," despite no Democrats supporting his framework.

"We presented Congress with a detailed proposal that should be supported by both parties as a fair compromise, one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs and must have," he said, even as his proposal was dismissed as dead on arrival by Democrats whose votes will ultimately be needed to pass any compromise.

RELATED: What Trump's State of the Union means for the immigration debate

Despite months of negotiations on how to preserve DACA and enact other measures like border security and White House-requested immigration overhauls, Congress still remains far from a clear path forward even as a deadline for government spending approaches.

"I wouldn't say we're making progress," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of the so-called "No. 2s" group, regular meetings of the seconds in command in both parties in both the House and Senate that have been coordinating with key administration officials.

"I would say we're continuing, however, to try to winnow down what the discussion is about. We haven't done it yet," Hoyer said.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn similarly left a meeting last week of the group and characterized it as "wheel spinning." Democrats have long complained their perception is the group mainly exists to slow down negotiations.

The circular talks, which sources in the room describe as mostly reiterations of positions that in most cases neither side is willing to cede, are indicative of a broader stalemate leading up to February 8 -- when another short-term government funding bill is likely. After that, lawmakers await Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's promise to hold an open floor debate on immigration.

Likewise a group of roughly 20 bipartisan senators that formed out of the government shutdown at the last funding deadline has been meeting essentially daily to find common ground on the issue. But lawmakers in that group have similarly described a process of defining the issues, and have said their group's work is mostly to generate ideas that will then be funneled to Cornyn and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin for further negotiation.

"We want to be deferential," one of the group's organizers, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, said after a meeting Monday. "We hope we might be able to be helpful to them by going through a series of concepts," she added, saying the group had discussed various proposals out there.

Many of the lawmakers in the group have little prior specialty in immigration policy. North Dakota Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said that Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford has been working to brief the group on what the Department of Homeland Security wants out of negotiations, and the group does include one of the authors of the 2013 "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

"I think that there's such a discussion right now between process, how do you start, and then definitional, and I think the great work we're doing in there is look, let's get our facts in order, let's get a unified sense of understanding," Heitkamp said after one of the meetings of the group.

The groups' efforts have attempted to find a path forward even after Trump rejected a bipartisan compromise negotiated by Durbin and a handful of other senators over months, declined a DACA for border wall offer from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and after the White House put out an aggressive framework that included a generous path to citizenship for the young undocumented immigrants but included a number of hardline requests that Democrats have said are impossible to swallow.

Some in the bipartisan group are already talking about narrowing the debate to just two issues -- DACA and physical border security -- even as others in the group reject that approach. Republicans like Cornyn and Lankford have said the White House's "four pillars," which include cuts to family migration and the diversity visa lottery and define border security broadly to include deportation authorities and other measures, have to be the starting point and can't be narrowed down.

"If we can't get a deal that includes that we may have to pair it down to two pillars and just do border and DACA as plan B," Rubio told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux on Wednesday. "But I know they're going to try plan A first, and you know I've supported that and I continue to support limiting (family-based migration) to nuclear family."

Meanwhile, the bipartisan group on the House side of the Capitol, the Problem Solvers Caucus, has proposed a compromise that hews very closely to the already-rejected proposal from Durbin, though the Senate has moved on from it. That group's co-chairman, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, has been in touch with Collins and her Democratic co-organizer Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, about possibly bringing the two groups together to meet, the New Jersey Democrat told CNN.

All of the talk is setting the stage for a potentially messy floor debate in the Senate. Though McConnell has pledged to call something to the floor for an open debate process if no deal otherwise is reached by February 8, he has not made any statements about what he would call as a starting point. And with an open amendment process, the debate could get messy and any bill could be brought down by a poison pill amendment intentionally designed to tank the process.

Still, lawmakers are continuing to meet.

"I don't know," Durbin said of whether the plan to funnel ideas through him and Cornyn will work. "We've never tried anything like this. But I'm hopeful, and so is he."

As for the No. 2s meeting he's a part of, Durbin added, "We do have some looming deadlines. I hope that moves us."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 38136

Reported Deaths: 1508
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12329786
Ramsey4855227
Stearns236119
Dakota233090
Anoka2200109
Nobles16686
Olmsted112415
Washington108240
Mower9512
Rice8427
Scott7154
Clay58738
Kandiyohi5731
Blue Earth4702
Wright4655
Todd4012
Carver3761
Lyon3122
Sherburne3125
Freeborn2920
Steele2311
Watonwan2240
Benton2153
St. Louis17815
Martin1685
Nicollet16612
Cottonwood1360
Goodhue1308
Winona12415
Crow Wing10612
Pine1030
Le Sueur1001
Chisago981
Otter Tail931
McLeod910
Carlton870
Dodge860
Polk812
Chippewa791
Unassigned7737
Isanti720
Waseca680
Douglas640
Itasca6412
Murray630
Meeker611
Morrison591
Becker560
Faribault560
Jackson550
Sibley542
Pennington510
Pipestone442
Renville352
Mille Lacs342
Wabasha330
Rock310
Beltrami300
Brown302
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston250
Swift211
Norman200
Wilkin203
Redwood180
Roseau160
Aitkin150
Cass152
Koochiching151
Wadena150
Big Stone140
Kanabec141
Marshall120
Grant110
Lincoln100
Pope100
Mahnomen81
Clearwater70
Hubbard60
Lake60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31430

Reported Deaths: 720
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6578179
Woodbury324144
Black Hawk228758
Buena Vista171211
Johnson12928
Dallas128129
Linn127782
Marshall104919
Scott79810
Story7753
Pottawattamie72611
Wapello70830
Dubuque69922
Crawford6782
Muscatine63844
Sioux4720
Tama46529
Wright3841
Louisa36113
Jasper32417
Plymouth3225
Warren2861
Dickinson2672
Washington2409
Webster2192
Hamilton1881
Cerro Gordo1781
Boone1481
Clay1340
Clarke1312
Allamakee1284
Mahaska11617
Clinton1131
Shelby1130
Poweshiek1058
Carroll981
Pocahontas961
Bremer946
Des Moines902
Franklin900
Emmet870
Henry863
Cedar841
Taylor790
Monona760
Cherokee751
Floyd752
Hardin750
Marion700
Benton671
Guthrie664
Sac640
Jefferson630
Osceola610
Jones580
Butler552
Hancock540
Humboldt541
Lee542
Harrison530
Buchanan521
Delaware511
Iowa510
Monroe516
Fayette500
Calhoun492
Madison472
Clayton443
Lyon440
Palo Alto410
Davis401
Grundy380
Winneshiek380
Mills370
Mitchell370
Kossuth350
Howard340
Jackson320
Chickasaw310
Lucas314
Greene290
Union280
Winnebago280
Ida240
Cass220
Keokuk211
Van Buren210
Appanoose203
Page200
Worth190
Audubon161
Unassigned160
Adair150
Ringgold150
Decatur110
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont70
Rochester
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 79°
Mason City
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Albert Lea
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Austin
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Charles City
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 78°
Hot, sticky, and stormy
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

How did businesses do on the 4th of July with tourism

Image

Stewartville's Will Tschetter commits to Michigan

Image

Covid-19 concerns, Rochester Boys and Girls Club temporarily closes

Image

Looking at the Role of School Resource Officers

Image

Seans 4pm Weather 7/6

Image

Treasury Department unveils relief loans

Image

Mandatory Mask Mandate for Rochester

Image

Approving Cares Act Funding

Image

Mountain Bike Trail System Being Developed

Image

Seans 6am Weather 7/6

Community Events