The White House and congressional Democrats traded immigration offers futilely over the weekend, according to three sources familiar with the talks, leaving little chance of an immediate deal to protect Dreamers.
The White House on Sunday made an 11th-hour push to include billions of dollars in border wall funding in a massive congressional spending bill due this week, but clashed with congressional Democrats over how far to go in protecting young immigrants that face deportation, the sources said.
White House officials asked Democrats to approve $25 billion for President Donald Trump’s border wall in exchange for extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program through fall of 2020, those sources said. That would give Trump his full wall funding request in the must-pass spending bill and still give him leverage over the DACA program heading into his 2020 reelection campaign.
But Democrats balked, demanding instead that the White House provide a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million young immigrants eligible under the DACA program, those sources said. The White House might have been open to negotiating further, but Democrats were only willing to entertain the massive wall funding figure in exchange for helping the same number of immigrants that Trump embraced in a proposal earlier this year.
The impasse shows how far apart each side is ahead of a Friday deadline to fund the government: This could be Trump’s best chance to get wall money, particularly if Democrats win back the House this fall. So the White House is willing to drop its insistence that any immigration deal include major cuts to legal immigration. In the administration‘s view, Democrats are being unreasonable in the face of Trump’s flexibility.
“We sent the minority leaders’ offices a proposal that is pretty fair,” said a White House official. “It seems like Democrats don’t want to take yes for an answer.”
Democrats rejected that characterization.
“The White House proposal gave them everything they asked for while leaving Dreamers in limbo, said a senior Democratic aide. “Our counter offer lined up perfectly with what the president had proposed but of course, he said no to his own deal. Again.”
There is little incentive for Democrats to give in to Trump’s full border funding request without permanent protections for Dreamers. Their counteroffer was similar to a bipartisan bill that Republicans rejected last month under heavy pressure from Trump and White House officials.
And now there is little chance that the outstanding DACA issue will be resolved this week as part of a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. Trump’s plan to rescind DACA protections is still tied up in the courts, and with no deadline facing Congress, action this year appears less likely by the day.
Rachael Bade, Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan contributed to this report.