Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.
Immigrant rights activist and several lawmakers voiced outrage this week as it became clear that Congress is not likely to act to restore the protections from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants before the end of the year—as Democratic leaders originally promised.
But Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told reporters Wednesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has committed to holding a vote on a DACA fix early next year.
Flake, who agreed to vote for the tax bill this week based on a promise to be included in talks on DACA, said he is “pleased that the Majority Leader has committed to bring the bipartisan DACA bill we are currently negotiating to the Senate floor in January.”
Though he offered few details on the legislation he is negotiating with the White House, Flake claimed it would include a path to citizenship for DACA recipients along with border security measures. He added that the bill will address “chain migration” in the context of DACA recipients, but he did not detail other aspects of the negotiations.
“The White House is going to get back to us later in the week on a punch-list of items related to the border, but not really the border,” he told reporters.
McConnell confirmed his promise to TPM, saying in a statement: “If negotiators reach an agreement on these matters by the end of January, I will bring it to the Senate floor for a free-standing vote.”
“There are bipartisan discussions in the Senate, involving the Administration, about improving border security, interior enforcement and reforming important parts of our broken immigration system, including addressing the unlawfully established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA),” he wrote. “I encourage those working on such legislation to develop a compromise that can be widely supported by both political parties and actually become law.”
Flake, who worked on the so-called Gang of Eight immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013 and met its demise in the House, said that while he would love to push for comprehensive immigration reform next year, resolving the status of DACA before the program’s expiration date must be the top priority.
“We’re not going to do that by March 5 so we’ve got to be realistic about what we do,” he said. “The key is to keep this to DACA.”