WASHINGTON -- Bipartisan negotiators hoping to resolve the standoff over so-called Dreamers brought their proposed immigration package to the White House on Thursday, but were quickly rebuffed by President Donald Trump and GOP leaders, who advised them to broaden their group to include other lawmakers.
The swift rejection, during a meeting in the Oval Office, shows how difficult it will be for Congress to develop a legislative solution to protect some 700,000 young immigrants when Trump ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in March.
The White House also made clear it does not want to include as part of the deal the Dream Act, which would expand the existing program, according to Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who took part in meeting. Instead, the administration is seeking to protect a narrower universe of young immigrants who already have temporary DACA protections.
"I think we still have a ways to go," White House legislative director Marc Short told reporters on Capitol Hill. "We're pleased the bipartisan members are talking."
The meeting comes after a federal judge this week issued an injunction halting Trump's plans to end DACA, providing the immigrants with temporary relief. The administration plans to appeal.
More than 1,000 DACA recipients daily will face deportation in March, advocates say. They are young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, but have temporary permits under DACA to work, attend school or serve in the military.
Only one Democrat, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois -- a leader of the bipartisan Senate group -- was among the seven lawmakers at the noontime meeting. It included Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another leader of the bipartisan group, and four other House and Senate lawmakers.
Cotton, who has emerged as one of the strongest proponents of White House plans to limit legal immigration, called the bipartisan senators' proposal a "joke."
"It's not even a fig leaf. It's a pine needle," Cotton told reporters after the meeting.
When House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Trump that a separate group of congressional leaders was planning to continue its own discussions later Thursday, the president told them: "Go do that," according to Cotton.