Flake Expresses Optimism On DACA After Immigration Talks With Trump
Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation — Sen. Jeff Flake and Rep. Martha McSally — participated in bipartisan immigration talks with President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday. Flake spoke after the meeting, expressing optimism.
“I think, frankly, we are closer to a deal than we were before this meeting," he said.
Flake has long sought greater protection for young immigrants through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. An executive order issued by President Obama in 2012, DACA allowed certain undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors to avoid deportation. But DACA was rescinded by President Trump in 2017.
Although the senator, who has repeatedly clashed with the president, said he had low expectations for the talks, he believes his goal of restoring DACA protections is now within reach.
"I thought it was, frankly, a better meeting than I expected," Flake said. "I went in with very low expectations. Whenever you have 22 people in a row, it's hard to negotiate."
He said the talks set up a framework for pursuing DACA legislation first, then comprehensive immigration reform later on. And he thinks that's a realistic approach, considering how complicated and time-consuming any comprehensive reform effort would be.
"I've always said I'm open to comprehensive reform, but we just can't do it before March 1," said Flake, referring to the month DACA protections are set to expire, putting thousands of young immigrants at risk of deportation.
Flake said the president outlined four things he wants the legislation to address: DACA, border security, chain migration, and the visa lottery. And he said Trump gave more details on his vision of what a border wall would entail.
"Another thing that was very effective and useful is that the president finally talked more about what he means when he talks about a wall," Flake said. "Now those of us who live in a border state understand that you can't have a 2,000-mile wall across the southern border. There are mountains and rivers that prevent it in certain places. Some places you just don't need it. Some places you do need barriers. And the president acknowledged that. And said we're not talking so much about a wall, as a fence."
Flake added: "So that's going to be helpful as well, if we're talking about border security in a way that doesn't gin up thoughts of a 2,000-mile opaque structure."
After the meeting, Flake was asked about the possibility of passing a version of the Dream Act. The Dream Act is legislation that has been introduced in Congress numerous times in various forms since 2001 but never passed. It would essentially cover the same people as DACA, but goes further in that it would create a path to citizenship.
"For those who want just a clean Dream Act, it's not going to happen," he said. "We've got to get 60 votes, meaning we've got to get votes on the Republican side and the Democratic side. And the agreement is going to be DACA and some border-security elements and a few other items. You know, we have tried for a long, long time to get DACA — or, I’m sorry – the Dream Act passed, or legislation to protect these kids, but until we combine it with something else, we simply won’t get the votes,
The bipartisan talks were scheduled to continue on Wednesday.