President Donald Trump rejected immigration deal offered by a bipartisan group of six senators that would preserve Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) participants while also increasing border security. According to the Washington Post, when lawmakers proposed on Thursday that Trump restore Temporary Protection Status for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries, Trump reportedly said, "Why are we having all these people from sh-thole countries come here?"

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Thursday afternoon: "There has not been a deal reached yet." She also said, “We still think we can get there.”

The so-called “Gang of Six” was led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). Trump told the senators to renew their negotiations on a solution to DACA and border security. The January 19 deadline for coming up with a budget, which Democrats insist must include immigration guarantees, while DACA is set to end in March. Durbin said after the meeting with Trump at the White House, "I'm not sure what the next step will be," adding, "The President invited us to -- at his little get-together in the Cabinet room -- to come up with proposals, and we did. It's a bipartisan proposal which we've worked on for four months in the Senate, and I don't know what happens next."

The bipartisan Gang of Six proposal offers a path to citizenship for illegal aliens who were brought to the United States as minors, not only those enrolled in the Obama-era DACA program when it ended under Trump. The senators also offered a partial payment on the $1.6 billion requested by Trump this year for border security and the wall, while also limiting DACA recipients to sponsor family members as immigrants, and end the diversity visa lottery while allocating those visas to cover persons who had been under Temporary Protected Status.

Among those pushing back against the proposal offered by Sens. Durbin and Graham, were Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-GA). Also on hand at the meeting were Republican Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Kevin McCarthy, who also resisted the bipartisan plan. Also attending was Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). Republican leaders said that without presidential support, the bipartisan plan will go nowhere.

After the meeting, White House legislative director Marc Short told reporters that Trump wants a "broader" deal on the family sponsorship part of the deal rather than just the covered DACA recipients. "There is a reason why the President has said that is not acceptable to him and sent everybody back to the same drawing board that Kevin McCarthy drew up on Tuesday," kSen. Cotton said after the meeting.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said on Thursday that a way forward may come through negotiations with Republican leaders and a broader group of legislators. "Hopefully they'll contribute their ideas to the solution but ... six people can't agree to something that will bind Congress and the House," Cornyn said. Corny said that any immigration deal would have to include the four issues Trump identified in the broader meeting on Tuesday: a fix for DACA, border security, curtailing chain migration, and ending the diversity visa lottery. That could be “something the President would sign,” said Cornyn.

In a joint statement released after meeting Trump, the senators did not mention the setback: "President Trump called on Congress to solve the DACA challenge. We have been working for four months and have reached an agreement in principle that addresses border security, the diversity visa lottery, chain migration/family reunification, and the Dream Act—the areas outlined by the President. We are now working to build support for that deal in Congress." Members of the Gang of Six included Sens. Dick Durbin (D)  of Illinois, Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona, Cory Gardner (R) of Colorado, Michael Bennet (D) of Colorado, and Bob Menendez (D) of New Jersey.

On Thursday, after the White House meeting, a Trump administration spokes did not deny the remark attributed to the president that referred to certain immigrants as coming from “sh-thole countries.” White House spokesperson Raj Shah, “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) demanded a "detailed explanation" from the Trump administration about the remarks attributed to the president. Hatch tweeted, "I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding the President’s comments. Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin." While other Republicans were largely quiet about Trump's remarks, Rep. Mia Love (R-NY) -- the first black female Republican elected to Congress, who also happens to be of Haitian parentage -- said that the president's comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values.” Adding that “this behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation,” Love said, “The President must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned,” she wrote.

Supporters of border security appeared to applaud Trump's remarks. “Go move to Haiti. Or Liberia. Oh, you won’t? Why is that?" tweeted Mike Cernovich, a prominent blogger and critic of liberal and progressive policies. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter, author of the book “In Trump We Trust,” said that Trump's comments showed that “he’s trying to win me back.” In recent days, Coulter has expressed her concern that Trump may accept a deal from Congress that includes amnesty for DACA beneficiaries.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson tweeted: "Option A: El Salvador isn't a 'sh-thole,' so they don't need 17 years of Temporary Protected Status, and migrants from there should be sent home immediately. Option B: El Salvador is, in fact, a 'sh-thole.'"

On Wednesday, President Trump advocated for a merit-based immigration system that allows only people with a “great track record” to enter the US. “I would like to add the words “merit' into any bill that’s submitted because I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada, like they have in Australia." During his televised meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday, Trump said, “So we have people coming in that have a great track record, as opposed to what we’re doing now, to be honest with you.” When House Majority Leader Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the reform package would focus on three components: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, border security, and ending chain migration, Trump interrupted and asked him to “add merit” in any immigration legislation. “I think you should add merit." Amid laughter from those in the room, Trump asked: "I mean, if you can, add merit-based. I don’t think -- I don’t know who is going to argue with merit-based? Who can argue with merit-based?”  



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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