WASHINGTON — The White House met with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Saturday, a conversation Democratic lawmakers had been seeking for weeks as they became increasingly concerned that the administration would approve an immigration deal they found unacceptable.
The meeting was held on Zoom on Saturday afternoon, according to two people familiar with the discussions, and included caucus leaders and senators, White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The dispute revolves around what Democrats want to agree on on border measures in order to obtain Republican support for passing aid to Ukraine and Israel, which remains a top priority for President Joe Biden.
The White House told committee members that while progress has been made on the framework, they are still working through some important policy decisions, according to one of the sources. The Human Rights Commission also asked to be able to weigh in before the White House closes the deal on negotiations; Zients and Mayorkas said they would update them again.
CHC members’ frustrations have grown in recent weeks as members felt the White House was not listening to their concerns. The group had called for an “urgent” meeting with the White House earlier this month.
Last month, on at least two occasions, Democratic senators on the GOP committee met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and said they did not believe Republicans were negotiating in good faith, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.
Their dissatisfaction came to light during Saturday’s meeting, when they made clear they were troubled by the politics and communication around the border deal, according to the source at the meeting. They said they felt like the White House was holding off on giving the group a meeting until the administration was closer to agreeing to items they would not support.
A senior administration official previously told NBC News that top Biden aides have prioritized reaching out to lawmakers directly involved in the negotiations — including Schumer and Sens. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz. – It began expanding its reach last week.
Zients also made several calls to CHC members.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted Thursday at the daily briefing that they were “in constant communication with Democrats, and of course with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”
“Look, here’s what the president believes: He believes we need to fix what’s happening in our broken immigration system. He believes this needs to get done, and it needs to be fixed,” she said. “And he is willing to find a bipartisan compromise to get this done.”
“The White House and the administration have not been in ongoing communication with the Commission on Human Rights about these negotiations and their engagement,” committee chairwoman Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif., said in a statement to NBC News. In fact, we were the ones who requested meetings for weeks with White House and administration officials involved in the talks, as well as the president — and the White House was largely unresponsive to our requests.
Senate negotiators met on Saturday to continue reaching an agreement on the border, with the goal of establishing a framework by Monday.
But according to two sources familiar with the discussions, Democrats and Republicans remain far apart in three key areas: restricting the president’s ability to temporarily admit refugees on humanitarian parole, authorizing the detention of immigrants pending adjudication of their claims, and expanding presidential powers. To expel immigrants nationwide.
Immigration advocates were angry about last week’s deportation proposal, comparing it to Act 42, the Covid-era public health order implemented by former President Donald Trump that made it easier for the United States to expel immigrants. The pro-immigration group FWD.us called the latest proposal “Title 42 on steroids.”
The Senate — controlled by Democrats, who have shown more interest in quickly passing the broader aid package — postponed its recess and will return on Monday in hopes of reaching a deal.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sent a memo to GOP members informing them that while negotiators are making progress toward reaching an agreement on immigration reform, they are not there yet, and there will likely not be a vote this coming week. .
“While progress is being made on the boundaries discussions, there are important issues still being discussed and a lot of very technical work on the wording that is taking a long time to get right. So, it looks like we’re headed to a vote on the nominations this week.” He wrote in his notebook.
“This is going to continue into next year,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “We feel like we’re stuck. We’re not close to reaching an agreement. It will go into effect next year.”
But he left the House on Thursday and has no plans to return until the new year.
“We’ve needed comprehensive immigration reform in this country for decades. And because it’s so difficult, it’s so emotionally charged. We never got it done. We didn’t get it done,” Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell said. On NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“We need to do something about immigration, but we need to do it the right way. This will keep the compassion there but protect our national security.”
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