Congressional Hispanic Caucus airs frustrations over border deal in meeting with White House

WASHINGTON — The White House met with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Saturday, a meeting the Democratic lawmakers had been seeking for weeks for a dialogue.

The meeting took place Saturday afternoon on Zoom, two people familiar with the discussions said, and was attended by leaders and senators in the caucus, White House Chief of Staff Jeff Giants and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

At issue is what Democrats will agree to on border measures to secure Republican support for Ukraine and Israel, a top priority for President Joe Biden.

The White House told CHC members that while progress has been made on a framework, they are still working through some important policy decisions, according to a source. The CHC asked the White House to weigh in on the deal before sealing the negotiations; Zients and Mayorkas asked them to explain to them again.

Frustrations among CHC members have grown in recent weeks as members feel their concerns are not being heard by the White House. The caucus requested an “urgent” meeting with the White House earlier this month.

On at least two occasions last month, Democratic senators on the CHC huddled with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DNY, and said they did not believe Republicans were negotiating in good faith, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

Their displeasure surfaced during Saturday’s meeting, when they made it clear they were upset with both the policy and the communication surrounding the border deal, according to a source from the meeting. They said they felt like the White House was dragging its feet on giving the group a meeting until the administration agreed to rules they weren’t going to support.

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A senior administration official previously told NBC News that Biden aides have made it a priority to communicate directly with lawmakers involved in the negotiations — Schumer and Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz. — and began expanding its reach this past week.

Zients has also held several calls with CHC members.

At Thursday’s daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that they “continue to communicate with Democrats and obviously with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”

“Look, here’s what the president believes: He believes that we need to fix what’s going on with the broken immigration system. He believes that it needs to be done, it needs to be fixed,” he said. “He’s willing to find a bipartisan compromise to do that.”

Senate negotiators met Saturday to pursue a deal on the border, with the goal of creating a framework by Monday.

But according to two sources familiar with the discussions, Democrats and Republicans are far apart on three key areas: limiting the president’s ability to temporarily admit refugees under humanitarian parole, requiring immigrants to be held pending adjudication of their claims and expanding the president’s powers. Immigrants should be expelled across the country.

Immigration advocates were furious over the deportation proposal last week, comparing it to Title 42, the Covid-era public health order implemented by former President Donald Trump that made it easier to deport immigrants to the United States. The pro-immigration group called the latest proposal “Title 42 on steroids.”

The Senate — controlled by Democrats, who have shown more interest in quickly passing a broader aid package — has delayed its holiday recess and will return on Monday in hopes of hammering out a deal.

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“It will go into next year,” Sen. Lindsay Graham, RS.C., said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “We feel like we’re stuck in a jam. We’re not close to any deal. It’s going to go into next year.”

However, House left on Thursday and has no plans to return until the new year.

“We’ve needed comprehensive immigration reform in this country for decades. It’s too difficult, it’s too emotional. We’re not going to do it. We’re not doing it,” Rep. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said. NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

“We have to do something about immigration, but we have to do it the right way. It keeps compassion there, but also protects our national security.”

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