Tillis joins bipartisan group in rare glimpse of White House immigration talks

Reporters given access to negotiations between parties and Trump administration

President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday evening,  A  judge in San Francisco temporarily barred President Donald Trump’s administration from ending a program shielding young people brought to the United States illegally by their parents from deportation. The decision came from the Ninth Circuit Court, a court that has bee often criticized for left-leaning decisions.  The most overturned court in the country, in 2012 the ninth had 86 percent of its decisions reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision ruled that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, must remain in place while lawsuits against the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the program proceed. A variety of Democratic state attorneys general, organizations and individuals challenged the decision in multiple federal courts.

The Trump administration says bipartisan negotiations to find a DACA solution will continue despite the ruling, On Tuesday, Americans glimpse of White House negotiations between Trump and congressional leaders over immigration reform.

In extraordinarily rare access, Trump allowed reporters and cameras to sit in on the high-level immigration meeting for nearly an hour on Tuesday afternoon. Allowing media to witness the negotiations was unusual, especially compared to prior White House administrations.  In the discussions, Republicans made clear that a compromise bill was possible, but said border security must be a part of a DACA solution.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) was among those at the table as Republicans and Democrats weighed in with the president on immigration reform, security, chain migration and what to do about thousands of undocumented immigrants who are protected from deportation under an Obama-era program that will sunset in March.

“I do have people that are very far right and very far left, and they are very unhappy with what we are doing, but I really don’t care,” said Trump. “If we do the right bill, on DACA, we aren’t so far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”

Trump says he anticipates a two-phase plan that first addresses recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), then addresses a more comprehensive immigration reform plan. However, he said he wants any immigration deal to include funding for a border wall with Mexico and a tightening of immigration restrictions.

“If you don’t have the wall, you don’t have security,” Trump told the lawmakers.

Democrats say they want a deal to keep DACA recipients from being deported, but under pressure from immigrant groups, they are reluctant to give ground to Trump on the issue of the wall — a key promise from his 2016 presidential campaign.

Maryland’s Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, spoke at the meeting, saying a DACA bill could win support for passage even though there are differences between the parties over what constitutes necessary border security.

“Democrats are for security at the border,” Hoyer told Trump during the meeting. “There are obviously differences, however, Mr. President, on how you affect that.”

Tillis has been negotiating with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, and the White House, since filing his SUCCEED Act this fall, co-sponsored with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). The bill would set up a merit-based system that allows DACA recipients to build toward naturalized citizenship over 15 years, as long as they remained employed or in school with a clean criminal record. Tuesday’s meeting followed weeks of work to try to find a deal on Capitol Hill.

“Over the course of the last several weeks, we have negotiated in good faith with Senate Democrats on a DACA agreement,” said Tillis and Lankford in a statement last week. “Unfortunately, our discussions on border security and enforcement with Democrats are much further apart, and that is key to getting a bipartisan deal on DACA. Until that happens, we cannot accomplish the solutions our country needs and many families deserve. More work remains ahead.” 

Now, as lawmakers entered bipartisan White House talks Tuesday, the stakes are high but the dialogue appeared to make progress.

“There have been some discussions, but our position is clear and their position is somewhat clear. We want to drill down and see if there is some room for negotiations,” a White House official said before the meeting.

Trump has also said any DACA deal with Democrats must include ending “chain migration,” which could jeopardize the parents of DACA recipients who are still in the United States illegally, and a visa lottery program. In the meeting Trump said he trusts the lawmakers in the room and would most likely support a compromise they can pass, saying “I’ll take the heat.”

Following the meeting, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said he and other Republican lawmakers would introduce on Wednesday a bill to address immigration issues that would serve as the basis for the negotiations with meetings to commence quickly on Wednesday.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the second-most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, said lawmakers will cover four topics as they move forward in crafting a deal: the immigration program known as DACA and “dreamers,” border security, chain migration and the visa lottery.