Washington – An attempt by presidential senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner to win support for a White House immigration plan produced uncertain results Tuesday as Republican senators raised questions.
After Kushner and others described the proposal at a Capitol Hill lunch with GOP lawmakers, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters that White House officials seemed “well on their way” to winning consensus for a plan that would unite Republicans on the contentious issue. But he added, “Whether it will or not, I don’t know.”
Kushner has been describing his proposal to Republicans even as the approaching 2020 presidential campaign makes a solution to what has long been an intractable issue even harder to resolve. President Donald Trump has made hard-line policies a staple of his presidency as conservatives push to reduce legal immigration.
Democrats want an easing of restrictions that have prevented many from obtaining citizenship, including for hundreds of thousands of young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. They’ve been allowed to temporarily live and work in the U.S. under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump has tried to terminate.
Kushner won a positive reception for his proposal last week from about a dozen of the Senate’s more conservative Republicans. It features a bolstering of security measures, such as improved screening at southwest border ports of entry, and an increased preference for immigrants with strong job skills over relatives of migrants already in the U.S.
Graham, who is close to Trump, said that while Kushner’s plan focuses on people with high-end job skills, “We need workers across the board.”
Moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked Kushner about protections for DACA recipients but received no specific answer, Republicans said.
“They cannot be excluded from any immigration package,” Collins said afterward.
One Republican official briefed on Tuesday’s meeting said Kushner provided few details and said senators did not seem overly impressed with the plan. Another said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did not offer his views of the proposal. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private session.
Senators said Trump was expected to deliver a speech on immigration in coming days.
Kushner did not include DACA protections in his proposal. Republicans say the plan is designed to give their party a starting point for talks and a stance they can carry into next year’s elections.
“I don’t think it’s designed to get Democratic support as much as it is to unify the Republican Party around border security, a negotiating position,” Graham said.
“There was a lot of encouragement today for the work they’ve done,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
Graham planned to unveil his own proposal Wednesday for revamping laws that affect Central American migrants seeking asylum to enter the U.S. Growing numbers of them have been trying to get asylum status in recent years.