The meeting came as senators from both parties recognized that moving towards a comprehensive immigration law is unlikely, especially given the increase in migrants arriving at the border. And while the Democrats have long been pushing for legislation to provide permanent legal protection to undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, the Republicans are making it clear that they will not support anything without additional border security.
The Senators “are trying to get a feel for what parameters might be present and there will be another meeting when we put some proposals on the table,” said Senator Robert Menendez (DN.J.), who oversees comprehensive immigration reform President Joe Biden presented the proposal to that Congress.
“It was a good first discussion,” added Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). “Nobody took themselves out. I thought they were all really interested.”
Cornyn told POLITICO that he had discussed the need to overhaul the current US asylum system. He wants to put asylum seekers before immigration judges immediately instead of allowing them to stay in the US while they wait for their court dates. Currently, the majority of migrants arriving at the border are being kicked out before they can apply for asylum with a former health agency that former President Donald Trump called at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 – which Biden has not yet revoked. Cornyn suggested combining protective measures for dreamers with asylum reform.
But Cornyn recognized the challenges of getting any kind of immigration legislation through the Senate, including the years-popular protections for dreamers. “And full immigration will never work,” he added.
In addition to Cornyn and Tillis, GOP Sens. Susan Collins from Maine, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and Mike Rounds from South Dakota attended the meeting. On the Democratic side, Sens. Alex Padilla from California, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, Chris Coons from Delaware, Michael Bennet from Colorado, Catherine Cortez Masto from Nevada and Ben Ray Lujan from New Mexico took part. Sens. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Mike Crapo from Idaho were invited but could not attend.
Durbin has been holding one-on-one meetings with GOP attendees for weeks, a Democratic adviser said, laying the groundwork for Wednesday’s meeting. The group will meet again after a high-level discussion to learn more details.
The house last week passed a pair of immigration bills Offer legal protection to dreamers, recipients of temporary protection status and farm workers and reform the existing H-2A program for farm guest workers.
Both bills were passed with bipartisan support, but neither is likely to get the required 60 votes in the Senate, especially given the current focus on what Republicans refer to as the “Biden’s border crisis.” And it is even less likely that Biden’s comprehensive reform plan in its current form will be supported by the GOP.
In the meantime, the border situation is not getting the spotlight as more and more delegations from lawmakers travel there to discuss what is happening. Republicans blame Biden, who they believe actively encouraged migrants to reverse Trump-era politics. And four years ago, the Democrats blamed Trump for sealing the border and dismantling the US asylum system.
Cornyn and Senator Ted Cruz will lead a delegation of 17 GOP Senators to the Texas-Mexico border on Friday, including Tillis, Collins and Graham.
Also on Friday, Rep. Joaquin Castro, Texas, will lead a delegation of Democrats to visit a facility that houses unaccompanied children in Carrizo Springs, Texas. The planned visit is “oversight to ensure humane treatment and an orderly process for uniting children with families,” said Castro wrote on Twitteran invitation to a member of Congress. As of Wednesday afternoon, according to Castro’s office, six Democrats will be part of the delegation.