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House DACA deal in final stages: 'Crossing the Ts'

By Tal Kopan, CNN | Posted - Jun 14th, 2018 @ 8:10am

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) — Republican negotiations on a House immigration bill that would fix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are in the final stages, key lawmakers said as they left a secretive meeting in the House basement on Wednesday.

Both moderates and conservatives are coming together on an outline of a bill brought on by weeks of negotiations behind closed doors, as leadership brought the two wings of the party together to avert rebellions on both sides.

After a breakthrough agreement on how to proceed Tuesday — and arm twisting by leadership — that cut off moderates' efforts to buck leadership control of the floor, talks Wednesday centered around hammering out the details of the policy itself.

The progress in negotiations sets the stage for votes on immigration on the House floor next week, which will include a vote on a conservative proposal that is not believed to have the support to pass and a separate compromise being written that will stem from the negotiations currently in progress.

Though the bills' fates are still unclear and it's possible neither passes the House — let alone moves in the Senate — the prospect of Republicans having a debate and vote on the political third rail of immigration on the House floor the summer before midterm elections was unthinkable just months ago.

"We're just doing the cleanup stuff from the negotiations that (Reps) Raul (Labrador) and Carlos (Curbelo) did yesterday," said conservative Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows as he left member negotiations Wednesday. "So we're just trying to dot our I's and cross our T's."

"We're just about there," Curbelo said. "I think we'll definitely see text this week."

CNN has obtained a draft from a source close to the negotiations of the outline lawmakers are working from to write the bill, which, when described to Curbelo, was confirmed as largely still what they're working on minus a few "details filled in." The broader GOP conference was briefed on the toplines of the bill in a Wednesday morning meeting.

The bill is designed to hit the conceptual "four pillars" that President Donald Trump has asked for in an immigration deal: a solution for DACA recipients, changes for border security, cutting family-based migration and ending the diversity visa lottery.

On the DACA piece, to protect the young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children that were covered by DACA, which Trump has decided to end, the bill would create a new visa that would include DACA eligible immigrants but also be broader, so conservatives are satisfied it's not a "special pathway" to citizenship for undocumented immigrants alone.

The proposal would allow both individuals who qualify for the new iteration of a DACA permit and children of legal immigrants who have grown up in the country but may be aging out of status to apply for a green card after a waiting period.

To make room for those new visas, other parts of legal immigration would be cut accordingly, on the family side and diversity visa. The plan would cut visa categories for married adult children of U.S. citizens and adult siblings of U.S. citizens.

The cut visas from family categories and diversity would be reallocated to the new green card category and employment categories.

It will appropriate $25 billion for the wall and border security.

It would also include some of the administration's requests for enforcement powers, including making it harder to pursue asylum claims in the U.S. and making it possible to immediately return unaccompanied children to Central America unless they establish they have a claim to asylum under the new higher standard.

It would also change a court settlement governing the treatment of children in government custody, including "ensuring alien minors apprehended at the border along with their parents are not separated from their parent and legal guardian."

The details on how the settlement would otherwise change is still being drafted, Curbelo said when asked about that provision.

Curbelo said he believes the bill is picking up support.

"The reports and feedback I'm getting back from conservatives is that there's growing momentum," Curbelo said.

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