By No Labels
In what has been called an “extraordinary” meeting, President Trump gathered with members of Congress — both Republicans and Democrats — at the White House Tuesday to discuss immigration reform.
The cameras were there. Most top congressional leaders were not. What ensued was a civil discussion – in public – that seemed to indicate that many major players on immigration are willing to compromise to get results, even if the meeting produced no immediate solution.
“In a city where gridlock has been the norm for years, Tuesday’s extraordinary meeting underscored a rarity in Washington — moments of partisan agreement,” The New York Times reported.
As the immigration debate moves to the forefront of the national agenda, here’s what you need to know.
Trump has met with lawmakers from both parties at the White House before, as most presidents do. This meeting was unusual because it included 25 Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate — all leaders on various immigration issues — and left out top leaders like Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell. It was also open to the press — something the administration did not announce in advance.
The hour-long civil discussion took many surprising turns, as Trump declared that he was open to many different immigration solutions. “When this group comes back … with an agreement, I’m signing it,” he said, adding that “I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.’ I’ll be signing it, because I have a lot of confidence in the people in this room that they’re going to come up with something really good.”
“This was the most fascinating meeting I’ve been involved with in twenty plus years in politics,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement.
The meeting did not produce tangible results, and it is not immediately clear what the impact will be on the overall debate.
Trump broached the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, which is not something that has been part of the conversation in recent weeks. “You’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform, and if you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat,” Trump said, adding that, “My whole life has been heat. I like heat, in a certain way.”
Comprehensive reform has been elusive in recent years. The Senate passed bills in 2006 and 2013, but neither could win House approval.
Trump also reaffirmed his insistence on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which Democrats reject and has been a major sticking point in the debate. In a tweet after the meeting, he wrote: “As I made very clear today, our country needs the security of the Wall on the Southern Border, which must be part of any DACA approval.”
Trump and many lawmakers in both parties want to protect “Dreamers,” the 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, from deportation in advance of a March deadline. But there are issues in the way.
Democrats want Dreamer protections attached to a spending bill that must pass by Jan. 19 to avoid a government shutdown. Republicans want border security measures to accompany any bill that addresses Dreamers. Trump wants the border wall, and supports an end to the lottery and “chain migration” systems, which allows immigrants who have become citizens to help family members do the same.
Thus far, no compromise solution has emerged. But Tuesday’s meeting makes it clear that parties are willing to negotiate. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, said, “During the closed-door portion of the meeting, they reached an agreement to negotiate legislation that accomplishes critically needed reforms.”