House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., did not ooze optimism Tuesday when asked about negotiations between congressional deputy leaders toward a deal on a legislative fix for Dreamers.
"Frankly, I don't think we're making a lot of progress," Hoyer told reporters Tuesday morning about the ongoing meetings between him, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
The Maryland Democrat said that while the group is "close" on how they would deal with the Dreamers situation — including those not covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — other issues continue to crop up, including with how to deal with the visa lottery program and, in particular, chain migration.
Overall, Democrats have resisted calls from Republicans and conservatives who want significant changes to chain migration, a term Democrats call "family reunification." In the president's proposal laid out over a week ago, the plan would allow only spouses and minor children to be eligible for family-based green cards, while the current system also allows parents, siblings, and children over 21 to be eligible.
"Where we get into a problem is when they want to do things that we think the president said in that meeting in the White House were in the second phase," Hoyer said, referring to the DACA solution as "phase one." "My belief is they want to deal with a significant portion of phase two in phase one, holding the DACA kids hostage."
Hoyer said that if the discussions were limited to border security, then they would likely be able to hash out a deal, one that would include funding for a border wall, but said that the definition of border security is being "expanded."
"We knew we had to talk about (the wall). We knew we had to talk about it. We're prepared to make some compromises on that," Hoyer said. "What we're not prepared to do is go into phase two and deal with substantial changes to our immigration policies outside of the context of doing everything."
The remarks echo Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, last week when he said that the only thing the group can agree to is to more meetings. The next meeting of the four is set for Saturday after Hoyer and House Democrats return from their three-day retreat in Cambridge, Md.
He also laid blame at the feet of President Trump for muddying the waters in negotiations, including his initial call to pass a bill to help the Dreamers before moving on to other priorities.
"Of course, the president's...racist comments in reference to diversity make that very toxic, and something that we should not deal with," Hoyer said.
Senate Republicans said they plan to bring up an immigration bill next week but have not revealed the measure that would serve as a base bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to allow fair consideration of multiple proposals, but final passage of any legislation would require 60 votes.