White House

3 things to watch when Trump, GOP senators discuss immigration

Jared Kushner has been WH point person — but Stephen Miller has been Trump’s voice

Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., will meet with President Donald Trump on Tuesday to discuss immigration. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Perhaps sensing momentum in the post-Mueller report realm, President Donald Trump has summoned a group of Senate Republicans to the White House to talk about overhauling the immigration system.

A small group of GOP senators will meet Tuesday afternoon with Trump and senior White House aides to hear details of a plan administration officials have been cobbling together. Presidential son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner has been the point person in crafting the proposal.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday touted Gallup’s most recent measurement of presidential approval rating as “an all-time high, 46 percent” and said it was evidence her boss was in good position to win re-election.

Conway and other aides have interpreted this and other polling as a shift in their direction. Here are three things to watch when the Republicans meet with the president around 3 p.m.

Kushner’s math problem

Kushner’s plan reportedly will propose changes designed to net neutral immigration figures.

But will that be enough to attract necessary bipartisan support? 

Even conservative senators who have Trump’s ear, like Georgia’s David Perdue, talk often about designing a system that allows the United States to “continue to be the global economic leader,” saying in an April statement that means “we have to welcome the best and brightest from around the world who wish to come to the United States legally to work and make a better life for themselves.”

But many Republicans want fewer immigrants, period. Many business groups, as well as Democrats, argue net migration reflects American values and helps the economy, particularly the labor market, grow.

How will Kushner bridge that divide — or enough of it to get a bill on his father-in-law’s desk?

DACA dilemma

It’s difficult to image congressional Democrats supporting any plan that does not address the “Dreamer” population, 3.6 million individuals brought here as minors by their migrant parents.

Of that group, roughly 800,000 young migrants were covered under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump sought to end that program in 2017, setting off a legal battle. The last ruling came from a district court judge in Texas who ruled the program likely is unconstitutional, but allowed it to go on as the court battle continues.

During an April 30 session with Trump in the Oval Office, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California told the president that Democrats want “comprehensive immigration reform,” according to a senior Democratic source. Trump signaled he also wants a legislative fix to the Obama-era program that was created via an executive order.

But is DACA included in the Kushner plan? “I don’t want to get ahead of [the meeting], but it could be,” Conway said Tuesday morning.

If the White House deals with Democrats on DACA, they’ll have to invite them next time. A White House source confirmed Tuesday’s meeting is all-GOP: Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, Martha McSally of Arizona and Perdue.

On Tuesday, Conway questioned Democrats’ motivations. “They have to stop pretending that they want to reform our immigration laws,” she said. “If they’re serious about immigration reform, they should come to the table. This president’s ready. He’ll meet with anyone anytime.”

Miller time?

Kushner has shuttled around the Capitol and will be the face of the White House plan. The complication there is that the president frequently pivots to the hardline immigration rhetoric and policies of Stephen Miller, a senior domestic policy adviser.

“This is a deep intellectual problem that is plaguing this city, which is that we’ve had thousands of Americans die year after year after year because of threats crossing our Southern border,” Miller told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace in February. “We have families and communities that are left unprotected and undefended. We have international narco-terrorist organizations. This is a threat in our country, not overseas.”

That’s not very neutral.

A former Trump White House official earlier this month said one major problem in the West Wing is one faction undermining what another has worked on for months — sometimes even after the president has approved it. Will Miller yet again pull Trump toward a more hardline approach?

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