White House

Still no public timeline for Jared Kushner immigration plan

Presidential son-in-law briefed Senate GOP on details Tuesday

Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump, stepped out of the Vice President’s office in the Senate Reception Room for a phone call Tuesday after attending the Senate Republicans’ weekly policy lunch. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When White House senior adviser Jared Kushner came to visit Senate Republicans on Tuesday to reportedly discuss an immigration overhaul he is developing, he did not have a full plan ready to go for solving what his own party says is a crisis.

Multiple Republican senators said there was no evidence that the Trump administration has set a timeline for a public rollout, but Kushner, the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, did present some ideas that were new to many members of the conference.

Georgia Sen. David Perdue said Kushner is developing a plan that draws in part on merit-based migration legislation the senator crafted with fellow Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

“They’ve taken the RAISE Act that Cotton and I put forward two years ago and actually modified it and made it better,” Perdue said.

“Whereas the RAISE Act would have potentially reduced total immigration over a 10 year period by some, you know, three or four-hundred thousand, the intent here is to keep immigration — legal immigration — at the same level, 1.1 million, and focus more on the job categories,” Perdue added. “It’s a blend of family protection as well as workers for these job categories that are going short right now.”

The original bill’s effort to reduce legal immigration was widely criticized by Democrats and even some Republicans, so it is far too early to know how Democrats might respond to this latest effort. But Perdue suggested broad GOP support, at least.

“I’ve heard nothing but supportive comments from people who have seen this plan. For a lot of people in the conference, today was the first time they’ve seen it, so it’s kind of early to judge a reaction,” he said.

A significant amount of the discussion seemed to be about addressing legal immigration, though Republicans like North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said the presentation also addressed proposals to address the current influx of migrants from Central America.

“It wasn’t just talking about going to a merit-based system,” he said.

Hoeven said Kushner touched on addressing current policy on handling people from countries other than Mexico who cross the southern border. He also mentioned a provision that would allow asylum seekers to apply from their home countries, as well as making it easier to hold families together in detention for a longer period of time than the 20 days currently allowed for holding minor children.

“It would be to … retain people for a reasonable length of time so their case could be adjudicated,” Hoeven said. But it was not clear whether the Trump administration has settled on a specific new time limit.

Blame game

However, Kushner’s appearance did not come in a vacuum.

“Democrats support smart, effective, and humane border security. But President Trump’s failed anti-immigrant policies have exacerbated the situation at our southwest border,” Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois said in a statement. “It should be clear to the President and his administration that you cannot prevent outflows of irregular migration without addressing the root causes of that migration.”

Democrats want to boost refugee processing operations from within Central America and to stiffen laws against the smuggling of both people and cash.

“I’ve always supported smart, effective border security measures, but no amount of border security spending will work without continued investments in programs that address the root causes of migration from Central America,” said Delaware Sen. Thomas R. Carper, the ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“I’ve seen firsthand the violence, corruption and lack of economic opportunity in the Northern Triangle that force so many families to flee for their lives and seek safe haven at the U.S. Southern border,” Carper added.

Not to be outdone, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham intends to unveil a new immigration proposal of his own Wednesday morning.

“It’s going to be a solution to the Central American problem,” the South Carolina Republican said in previewing his announcement.

Disaster aid

The flurry of talk about immigration comes as the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee are still trying to work out details of a broader disaster relief spending bill, a long-delayed package in which the White House has wanted to see $4.5 billion in supplemental funding to address the surge in migrants at the southwest border.

Hoeven, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that he did not hear any additional funding requests from Kushner at lunch.

Vice President Mike Pence, who was also among the guests at Tuesday’s Senate Republican lunch, has been among the administration officials reportedly insisting that the $4.5 billion be included.

“We’re still negotiating the supplemental. The administration would like it in there. Therefore, we’d like it in there,” Hoeven said of the border-related funding. “That hasn’t happened yet, but then we’re not done yet.”

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