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Senators have agreed on a bipartisan immigration deal. Here’s what’s in it, and why the White House rejects it

A bipartisan group of senators announced on Thursday they have agreed on an immigration deal that would protect so-called “dreamers” and beef up border security. But President Trump is not yet on board, according to spokesmen who say the proposal needs work. Meanwhile, the president reportedly used vulgar language in describing immigrants from some countries. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The future of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children remains uncertain tonight.

    A bipartisan group of six U.S. senators announced they have agreed on an immigration deal that would protect these so-called dreamers and beef up border security.

    But, as of now, the White House is not on board. Two of the senators leading the effort presented the plan to President Trump this afternoon. So far, his spokesmen say the proposal needs more work.

    The NewsHour confirms with a Democratic aide that, at that meeting, the president used vulgar language in describing immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and some African countries.

    Mr. Trump asked — quote — "Why are we having all these people from 'S-blank-hole' countries come here?" and suggested instead more immigrants from Norway should be welcomed.

    Our own Lisa Desjardins joins me now to explain the state of play.

    Lisa, so we're following this all day long. Let's get to the context of what was going on. Three Democratic senators, three Republicans, what were they proposing?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    This is group is led by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Democrat, and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. They were the two at that White House meeting. Let's look at the agreement they came to as a bipartisan group.

    First, that DACA recipients would have a permanent legal status and that after 10 years they could apply for citizenship. But their parents would only have a temporary status. That is about that chain migration or family migration. They could not apply automatically for citizenship.

    Also for the border, this deal would have given $2.7 billion for some kind of barrier, you could call it a wall or a fence, whatever, and also additional security.

    Also, Judy, interesting that in this deal the visa lottery as we know it would essentially end. That's 50,000 visas right now. Those visas would be split — 25,000 of those visas would go to help those who have temporary protected status, whose status is set to end in the next year-and-a-half, and 25,000 visas more would be merit-based.

    And that is that temporary protective status and that visa lottery, that is what the president was talking about when he talked about those groups of people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, well, and there is a lot to follow here.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we're going to try to keep it as simple as possible.

    But let's start with those temporary protected status recipients. Let's talk a little bit more about what that means and also about what you learned about this controversial comment by the president.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    So Democrats especially really want to keep those folks in this country. These are people who came here, most of them illegally, but were given a protective status because of events in their country like earthquakes. The president announced over the past few weeks that their status will end in the next year-and-a-half.

    As part of this deal, they would be given some visas. But as the president was being presented this deal, we're told by Democrats, he asked what countries are involved in this specifically. They listed those countries. When they got to Haiti, we're told by Democrats he responded, why would we want so many people from Haiti here?

    And then later, when they were talking about the visa lottery, he was told that benefits largely people from African countries, that they benefit from this. And at that point the president, we're told by Democrats, pushed back, and said, why would we want them? And that's when he made that comment using the expletive.

    The White House has responded to The Washington Examiner. And we're waiting for a response ourselves, saying that "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will fight for the American people."

    They didn't respond to the substance of this, whether he said those words or not. Democrats think this helps them, that it makes the president look, in the words of one aide, racist.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just very quickly, Lisa, what other objections did the White House express to this proposal?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    The wall is a problem for them. They want more money for the wall, even though this Senate proposal does include $1.6 billion, which is what the president has asked for, for now. They think it's not enough, and the White House would like more for that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And this is — again, this is coming from the Senate. What about the House of Representatives?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Very important question.

    Coming from a House Republican aide, a senior aide, they see the Senate proposal, of course, as a nonstarter. You see this classic competition. The House is way more conservative. What the House would like to happen is, instead of the Senate group leading the talks, they want a group of all the number twos in both chambers.

    So the number two Republicans in both the House and the Senate, the number two Democrats, they separately have been talking. The House wants that group to move forward. Of course, Democrats point out that is a group of four white men.

    So it is a competition to see who actually leads this. The clock is ticking. And to be honest, Judy, I think these negotiations are farther from a conclusion today than they were yesterday.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's fascinating, because we were getting a sense in the last 24, 48 hours that maybe they were moving closer to something.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you are saying no.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It feels like this was a very big road bump. And, of course, many of these lawmakers have gone home. Staff will be working overnight, I'm told, all around the Capitol. Conversation will happen by the phone, but it is hard to say. We will see what happens over the weekend and Monday.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we're going to the Martin Luther King holiday.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's correct.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you for all this very good reporting.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thank you.

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