The Trump White House is floating a new, last-minute deal to grant legal protections to undocumented minors in exchange for a tranche of border wall funding, sources confirmed to The Daily Beast.
But the proposal faces significant hurdles, chief among them that the president and his team have not yet discussed the plan with lawmakers who would be critical for its ultimate passage.
Numerous senior Democratic congressional aides told The Daily Beast that leadership offices had not been contacted by the White House about the new proposal—hearing about it through press accounts instead.
“They are not talking to us about it,” said one Senate Democratic aide. “So we are not saying anything about it because we don’t have anything to say about it.”
While some Republican lawmakers confirmed to Politico that they had been privy to talks of a last-ditch deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, others were in the dark. That included Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) whose own DACA bill—which would provide three years of legal protection for undocumented minors in exchange for three years of border wall funding—most closely resembles the offer being floated.
“They haven't reached out. But I just saw that the Post is reporting is that one of the things they’re discussing is the three-for-three,” Flake told The Daily Beast. “That seems to be the best formula out there.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), two other key players in the immigration debates, said they, too, had not been contacted by the White House and knew nothing of the proposal.
A White House official declined to comment on what the president is considering. But a senior Republican source said that while the administration isn’t floating a three-for-three proposal, it is open to a narrow DACA deal that can ultimately be tucked into a spending bill that Congress is considering in the coming weeks to keep the government funded through March 23.
Adding a DACA deal to such a vehicle would, conceivably, raise the likelihood of ultimate passage. But not even top GOP leaders seemed to think there was enough willpower to make that happen.
And lawmakers who have tried and failed to negotiate past DACA compromises with the president expressed little optimism that current talks would end successfully.
“I remember when the president was for a DACA deal for border wall funding,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. “And I remember the other time he was for a DACA deal for border wall funding and the other time as well.”
The DACA program, which began under President Barack Obama, was ended by Trump last September. But instead of cutting off protections immediately, Trump chose to wind down DACA over the course of six months, challenging Congress to find a legislative solution in the interim. They were unable to do so in large part, lawmakers say, because the administration made extraneous demands to overhaul U.S. immigration laws. Shortly after floating that they’d be comfortable with a narrow fix, the White House reiterated on Wednesday that it would continue to demand those provisions.
Judicial challenges have kept DACA intact past that six-month timeframe. But a longer-term fix is still needed for the program. Trump’s latest proposal could provide more time for negotiations even if lawmakers feel burned by past talks.
“He's totally unreliable,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said of the president. “But I am grasping at straws to find something to help 780,000 DACA people who run the risk of deportation."