The chances of an immigration-fueled shutdown showdown are growing after Democrats in recent days have rejected a long list of President Trump’s border and interior security demands.
Both sides are eyeing a meeting between Mr. Trump and a bipartisan group of congressional negotiators this week as the chance to make progress, but Democrats have grown increasingly strident in their complaints about the president’s stance, particularly after he submitted the outlines of an $18 billion proposal to build more fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mr. Trump said this weekend that the border wall must be part of any final deal, and other Republicans have drawn similar lines around changing the law that allows a single immigrant to sponsor extended family members in a chain of migration.
But Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who has taken the lead for his party in the negotiations, said they won’t accept those conditions.
“It’s outrageous that the White House would undercut months of bipartisan efforts by again trying to put its entire wish list of hard-line anti-immigrant bills — plus an additional $18 billion in wall funding — on the backs of these young people,” the senator said Friday after releasing details of the administration’s latest demands.
Mr. Durbin said he is instead negotiating with Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has been among his party’s most liberal members on immigration.
At a meeting at the White House late last week, Mr. Graham presented the outlines of the deal he is working on. Several sources briefed on the meeting said it would include a full pathway to citizenship to Dreamers, going beyond the 800,000 people approved under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The total number of people to be covered was unclear, though some proposals on the table in the run-up to the negotiations would cover as many as 2 million illegal immigrant Dreamers.
The proposal, as related by the sources, wouldn’t substantially alter the current system of chain migration, though it seemed to try to delay the time when immigrants could begin to sponsor some categories of relatives.
The sources also said Mr. Graham and Mr. Durbin are looking at canceling the Diversity Visa Lottery, an embattled program that gives away 50,000 immigrant visas a year based on chance. Mr. Trump has taken aim at the program, particularly after several people connected to it have been implicated in recent terrorist attacks.
But the Graham-Durbin negotiations envision taking those visas and creating a new immigration program to allow temporary humanitarian refugees in the U.S. under temporary protected status to apply for full permanent immigration.
Mr. Graham’s office disputed the details of the negotiations The Times presented but did not say what the negotiations did entail.
Republican lawmakers said they are looking to the White House to write up its own suggestions — particularly on security enhancements.
One proposal by Sen. John Cornyn, a senior Republican from Texas, met with stiff resistance from Democrats. A document viewed by The Times suggested that Democrats were resisting hiring more deportation officers, faster deportation times and even basic border enhancements such as trimming the invasive carrizo cane, a reed that grows along the Rio Grande and serves as a hiding place for people who sneak across the border.
Democrats have resisted funding for the border wall, though sources said the Graham-Durbin negotiations have agreed to an initial installment of money to build about 72 miles of new and replacement fencing.
Security analysts said they hope Mr. Trump steps in and demands more concessions from Mr. Graham, Mr. Durbin and Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who is also part of the negotiations.
“This is not even close to acceptable and not even good-faith negotiating,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies. “The president needs to make it clear to the Gang of Three that this doesn’t come close to doing what needs to be done, and they’ve got to either go back to the drawing board or just get out of the way.”
Unless the proposal does more to win over conservative Republicans, it risks failure — which could end up leaving Dreamers in danger of losing status altogether, she said.
“They’ve got to find a way to get 60 votes on a real compromise, and this is not progress towards that,” Ms. Vaughan said. “People are not going to be fooled by a bill that pretends to deal with chain migration, has no border security and is a much bigger amnesty than people were led to believe.”
Mr. Trump has made the border wall the symbolic crux of his push for immigration enforcement, including his unfulfilled demand that Mexico would pay for it. His braggadocio has helped poison debate on an issue that used to have bipartisan support.
During the 2013 debate on a Senate immigration bill, every Democrat in the chamber voted to build an additional 350 miles of fencing as part of a broader legalization bill. They also voted to add 20,000 more agents to the Border Patrol. That Senate bill was never sent to the House, so none of those enhancements became law.
The border currently has 654 miles of barriers: 354 miles of fencing and another 300 miles of vehicle blockades that prevent cars and trucks from being driven through, but still allow access to pedestrians and wildlife.
Mr. Trump’s latest demand, described by members of Congress and first reported by The Wall Street Journal, envisions a total of 970 miles of the border covered by a barrier, at a cost of $18 billion over the next decade. Homeland Security also asked for another $5.7 billion for more watchtowers, drones and sensors; $1 billion for new roads; and $8.5 billion to hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents over the next seven years.
The immigration negotiations are happening on the sidelines of talks for a full 2018 spending bill. Current government funding runs out Jan. 19, and without new funding there could be a shutdown.
Mr. Durbin signaled that Democrats will resist the wall.
“President Trump has said he may need a good government shutdown to get his wall. With this demand, he seems to be heading in that direction,” the senator said.
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