White House senior adviser Jared Kushner pitched President Donald Trump’s Cabinet members Tuesday on a 600-page legislative proposal to end legal loopholes that impact border enforcement and establish a new merit-based system for legal immigrants seeking to enter the United States.
The draft legislation comes months after the White House first announced that Kushner planned to create an internal task force with the singular goal of developing a serious and comprehensive proposal related to immigration and border security — something that Trump can point to as he makes his case for reelection over the coming months.
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“We’ve worked with roughly 25 Senate offices in consultation on this legislation, so there’s significant Republican buy-in,” said an administration official briefed on the proposal. “The purpose of today is to bring the Republican party behind a very serious proposal that we can all get behind, and from there we can hopefully engage in negotiations.”
Kushner will brief Republican leaders Tuesday afternoon on the proposal, which the White House is billing as a starting point and not “something that will pass in its current form,” the official said. The text of the legislation has yet to be released to congressional offices or the public and does not have any Democratic co-sponsors.
Kushner has worked closely with Stephen Miller, one of the president’s most hawkish advisers on immigration, officials across the Department of Homeland Security and bipartisan offices on Capitol Hill.
“The one advantage we have is we actually worked with DHS and we brought in the experts to see what you need to fix loopholes,” the administration official said. “Obviously a 100 percent fix is difficult, but getting to 90 percent is something we think we can do.”
To persuade GOP members to coalesce behind Kushner’s effort will likely require a series of adjustments to the current proposal, which is not expected to address illegal immigration beyond the border security component or to modify current levels of legal immigration.
The White House hopes an economic assessment of Kushner’s plan by the Council of Economic Advisers will serve as a major selling point for skeptics of the proposal who worry that it would undermine job opportunities and wages for American workers. “The CEA scored this and found that it would be a significant tax boon — roughly $580 billion — and that it would boost wages,” the official said.
The White House is likely to face significant resistance from congressional Democrats, who have escalated their criticism of Trump’s immigration policy in recent weeks after visiting overcrowded and unsanitary detention centers for migrant children and adults near the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has also come under fire for small-scale deportation raids carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents last weekend.
“It should be a sign to us that today’s Catholic Gospel reading is the Good Samaritan, where Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves and treat them with mercy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote on Twitter Sunday. “Trump’s ICE raids today tear families apart — the opposite of mercy. #FamiliesBelongTogether #KnowYourRights.”
Even more challenging for White House officials seeking to gain Democratic support for an immigration proposal is the current controversy enveloping Capitol Hill that stems from Trump’s stream of disparaging tweets about a group of progressive congresswomen. During a press conference Monday, the four Democratic women — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley — encouraged their colleagues to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, who they accused of “openly violating” his constitutional oath of office.
“Right now, the president is committing human rights abuses at the border,” Omar said. “I believe we are in a pivotal moment in our country. The eyes of history are watching us.”
The White House official declined to provide a timeline for the release of Kushner’s plan, nor would the official identify which Democratic offices worked with Trump’s son-in-law on the proposal.
Restrictionist immigration groups like the Center for Immigration Studies, which participated in listening sessions with Kushner earlier this year, have rejected previous outlines of the administration’s latest plan.
“If they propose something that doesn’t cut the numbers [of legal immigration] but just moves to a merit-based system, pretty much uniformly Democrats and all of the parts of the media that are allied with the Democratic Party will come out against it wholeheartedly… It’s not clear for them how it’s a winning strategy to have their own side divided and the other side unified,” CIS director of research Steven Camarota told POLITICO in May.