December 20, 2017 / 9:00 PM / 6 months ago

'Dreamer' bill to reach U.S. Senate floor in January - senator

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan immigration bill addressing the fate of so-called Dreamers, the young adults who were brought to the United States as children, will be debated on the Senate floor in January, Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Flake said on Wednesday.

“Bipartisan #DACA bill will be on the Senate floor in January,” Flake wrote in a post on Twitter.

“DACA” refers to Democratic former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order that temporarily protected around 800,000 Dreamers from deportation. President Donald Trump announced in September he was terminating the program but had asked Congress to devise a more permanent solution.

Flake said in an emailed statement that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to bring such a bill to the full Senate next month.

Aides to McConnell would not comment.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said in a statement, “Bipartisan negotiations continue and we’re fighting to pass this measure soon.” He did not provide details on any progress being made in the talks.

A Senate Republican aide, who asked not to be identified, said a “productive meeting” on Tuesday between a bipartisan group of senators and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly fuelled the optimism that the immigration measure will be approved in the Senate early next year.

A tougher fight could come in the House of Representatives, however.

The Senate aide said Tuesday’s closed-door meeting in the Capitol focused on border security provisions the White House wants to attach to a Dreamer bill. Kelly’s participation, the aide said, put the Trump administration back into the negotiations after months of holding back.

A bipartisan group of senators led by Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Lindsey Graham have been holding private negotiations over how many Dreamers would be covered by legislation giving them temporary legal status and whether they would ultimately be allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship.

The negotiations have been complicated by Republican demands that increased border security be included in any legislation.

Republicans also have been clamouring for more immigration enforcement throughout the United States. Democrats have been opposed to that as part of a Dreamer measure, saying it is a way for the Trump administration to step up its deportations of undocumented relatives of Dreamers, thus breaking up families currently in the United States.

Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by David Gregorio and Tom Brown

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