Bipartisan Senate Group Is “Extremely Close” To DACA Deal

A second Senator and member of the bipartisan working group working to iron out the details of the great immigration compromise bill has confirmed that Democrats and Republicans are on the verge of a deal.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said that, while the group is still working on a border security package, the details of the deal are nearly finalized.

“We’ve got this bipartisan group. We are at a deal. … It’s the only game in town,” Flake told reporters, according to  the Hill.

Earlier in the day, Flake’s Democratic colleague Dick Durban, both a member of the working group and the Democratic leadership, said lawmakers were “very close” to a deal, according to a separate Hill  report.

Of course, it’s important to take these pronouncements with a grain of salt, as deals that were purportedly “finalized” are reworked again and again.

A spokesman it’s worth noting that Sen. Bob Menendez immediately clarified Flake’s comments. He said that although the group of senators are making progress, they do not yet have an agreement.

“We are extremely close to a strong bipartisan deal to help dreamers. However, nothing is final yet and there is no legislative text to share yet,” the spokesman said.  

The group of senators – which also includes Lindsey Graham and Michael Bennet – have been negotiating for months on a deal that would include a DACA fix.

Flake

After canceling the so-called DACA protections back in September, Trump famously struck a deal with “Chuck and Nancy” – Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi – to enshrine the DACA protections into law while also securing funding to fortify border defenses.

But this deal unraveled as Democrats insisted they wouldn’t approve funding for Trump’s promised border wall, while Trump walked back his support for DACA, an issue on which he has wavered, though there is bipartisan support for preserving the protections – a decision that will affect 690,000 people, most of whom have spent nearly their entire lives in the US.

The final agreement is expected to include legalization for DACA recipients and a border security package. It’s also expected to address changes to the State Department’s diversity visa lottery program to curb so-called “chain migration” – a practice that Trump has railed against even as outraged liberals have insisted it isn’t a problem.

To be sure, even if the group hammers out an agreement, they don’t have final authority on the deal – Republican leaders have reserved that power.

Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican whip, said that while it was fine for the bipartisan group to negotiate, they would not be able to single-handily decide what the final DACA agreement is.

Durbin, Graham and GOP Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue all met with Trump at the White House on Thursday for a bipartisan meeting on the immigration deal.

Details of the legislation are still unknown, though Flake said the group has discussed shifting the diversity lottery visas to Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients. In recent months, the administration has canceled TPS protections for hundreds of thousands of Haitian and Ecuadorean migrants living in the US.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has committed to giving a DACA bill a vote if Trump indicates he would be willing to sign the legislation. Trump reiterated his call for a “wall” on Wednesday, saying it “must be part of any DACA approval.”

However, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the daily press briefing that “there has not been a deal reached yet” but that “we still think we can get there.”

Earlier this week, a federal judge on the ninth circuit ruled that DACA protections – which were initially set to expire in March – must remain in place until lawsuits challenging Trump’s decision are resolved.

This theoretically gives lawmakers more time to finalize a deal, though Republican leaders have insisted it would be taken care of early in the year.