Just hours before a high-stakes White House meeting with Republicans and Democrats, the Trump administration continued to hold tight to its demand that funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed southern border wall be included in a possible immigration overhaul bill.
“President Trump looks forward to meeting with bipartisan members of the House and Senate today to discuss the next steps toward achieving responsible immigration reform,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement.
“The Trump administration’s immigration priorities are clear: securing the border with a wall, closing dangerous enforcement loopholes; eliminating the visa lottery program and ending chain migration,” she said.
Democrats are staunchly opposed to a U.S.-Mexico border barrier, throwing a major wrench into the talks.
On Monday evening, Sen. Lindsey Graham emerged from a meeting with the Homeland Security secretary and several Republican senators active in the current immigration debate still hopeful for an agreement to pair a path to citizenship for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients with border security enhancements pushed by Trump.
But, the South Carolina Republican who is also a senior appropriator also suggested there could be a way to avoid a shutdown even without a big deal.
“We’re all going to win or we’re all going to lose,” Graham told reporters.
“We’re not going to shut the government down, and if we can’t reach a deal for the DACA-plus population for, you know, reasonable border security and diversity lottery changes, we'll find some way to fund the government,” Graham said.
“We'll probably extend the DREAM Act kids, the DACA kids, for a year,” Graham said of what could happen without a broader agreement.
Sen. Jeff Flake, who tends to agree with Graham on immigration policy, responded negatively when asked if he was comfortable with the posture of Senate Republicans ahead of Tuesday’s gathering.
“No, I’m not,” the Arizona Republican said. “They’re opening up this to comprehensive reform ... I’m in for that but not to fix DACA. We can’t do that by March 5, so this is a narrower fix.”
“We can deal with chain migration, for example, as it relates to the parents of kids ... but not at large,” he said. “You just can’t do that in the short timeframe we have.”
The list of expected attendees at the 11:30 a.m. meeting include Trump, and several immigration hardliners from his staff, including chief of staff John Kelly and senior adviser Stephen Miller.
Around 20 GOP and Democratic lawmakers are expected to attend, according to a list provided by the White House.
Full expected attendees list, via the White House:
General John Kelly, assistant to the president and chief of staff
Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Department of Homeland Security
Stephen Miller, assistant to the president and senior adviser for policy
Marc Short, assistant to the president and director of legislative affairs
Members of Congress
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va.
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.