“I think folks in the room were underwhelmed” with the “whole plan” presented by Kushner and Miller, the official told CNN.
A senior administration official pushed back on the criticism of the White House’s presentation at the Tuesday GOP Senate briefing in which Kushner and Miller presented ideas under consideration by the White House to reform the nation’s legal immigration system.
“The characterization that Kushner didn’t know the subject matter is wrong on many accounts,” the official said.
The senior administration official said Kushner, along with Miller and White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett delivered separate portions of the briefing to represent different viewpoints on the subject. Kushner approached the immigration issue from the “left,” Miller from the “right,” while Hassett offered analysis that would appeal to the business community, the official added.
“We did it that way so the right wing agreed with the Miller piece,” the official said. “The group did it together so there would be a whole of government approach.”
Trump is expected to unveil the details of the White House immigration plan on Thursday, a source familiar with the plan said.
But one Republican aide told CNN after the meeting that the feeling in the caucus lunch was that immigration is a longshot at this point. Even doing something on the fringes would require tremendous time and energy that does not currently exist, said the aide who wasn’t in the room but was briefed by the senator they work for who did attend.
The senator felt like everyone would like to see progress on this issue, the aide said, but that the fact there was no DACA or according to this source no E-Verify, makes it hard to imagine that this would end in any real, bipartisan deal.
“You have to be further along than what they presented,” the aide who was briefed said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, a close Trump ally who is presenting his own immigration plan, claimed “the White House’s plan is not designed to become law.”
Advocating for his own proposal, Graham said: “The White House plan is trying to unite the Republican Party around border security and merit-based immigration. I’m trying to get some relief to our Border Patrol agents. I’m trying to put a dent in the smuggling business and keep kids from going on a journey that’s got to be hell.”
Searching for a plan
The President has pushed for a “merit-based” immigration system, which would prioritize high-skilled workers, and an end to chain migration.
Some issues, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, were not discussed at the meeting by design, the official added, to avoid discussion on topics that remain divisive.
The proposal also does not address family separations at the border, which have become a lightning rod issue for the administration.
However, the proposal also is likely to preserve family unification as a principle of the legal immigration system, meaning that immigrants will likely continue to be able to sponsor other immediate family members, helping them obtain legal status in the United States. This is, of course, the very system that Trump has derided as “chain migration.”
“Unifying families is a basic tenant of immigration,” the official said. “It’s a whole component right now of a legal immigration system that’s family based.
Among the priorities of the proposal would be putting in place a merit “points” system for legal immigration. Reforming the legal immigration system will aim to keep the total number of legal immigrants entering the country the same, the official added.
It will also seek to secure ports of entry and increasing barriers, i.e. a wall, “where needed” across the border.
But other more conservative Republican lawmakers who received a briefing at the White House last week were more positive about the plan.
“If it adheres to the principles laid out in the meeting the plan would unite Republicans,” one Senate aide said, acknowledging, however, that that’s a much heavier lift in the Democratically-controlled House.
That aide added that the plan is a starting point to give Republicans “something to be for on immigration, not just be against.”
One immigrant advocate who spoke with Kushner said he sounded open to the idea of providing aid to Central American countries where many of the migrants are fleeing their communities. But Kushner wanted to know whether the idea would be politically viable.
“Do you think that would poll well?” Kushner asked, according to the immigrant advocate.