Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin says he had high hopes of securing President Trump’s approval of a bipartisan plan for “Dreamers” when he and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham went to the White House to make their presentation at about noon Thursday.
Durbin told reporters in Chicago on Friday that he had reached out to the White House two hours earlier, had spoken with the president and asked him to consider the compromise plan he and five senators — three Democrats and three Republicans — had come up with to “save the Dreamers and help their families.”
According to Durbin, he and Graham believed they would be the only lawmakers in the room with the president, and they were surprised to find that in the two hours since Durbin’s first phone call with the White House, Mr. Trump had invited five other members of Congress as well. All were immigration hardliners: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, North Carolina Sen. David Perdue, and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton. In addition to the lawmakers, White House chief of staff John Kelly and White House legislative director Marc Short were also present.
“There were two of us against 10 people in the room,” Durbin said of him and Graham. “I think we held our own as best we could.”
The president then joined the group in the Oval Office, and Durbin and Graham made their pitch on a plan they had worked on for four months — a solution for 700,000 Dreamers who would otherwise lose protection from deportation on March 5. While Graham was making the pitch, the president interrupted several times with questions, Durbin said.
Part of the proposal, according to Durbin, dealt with the diversity visa lottery, a program the. He and Graham explained that their proposal would alter the diversity visa lottery to give legal protections to some immigrants here with (TPS). The Trump administration recently announced it would end that status for countries like Haiti and El Salvador, whose citizens came to the U.S. years ago to escape the aftermath of national disasters.
As Durbin was describing for the president which immigrants with the protected status would receive relief under the diversity visa program, he mentioned a few examples, including Haiti. The president asked why the U.S. would want all those people from Haiti.
Durbin explained they were in the U.S. because they had been “the victims…