With another government shutdown looming this week, Senate Democrats, including Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, are still hoping to strike a deal on protections for the undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers." But at a news conference Monday, Brown suggested that failure to reach an agreement on the issue is "unlikely" to result in another shutdown.
The program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, protects immigrants who were brought into the country unlawfully as children from deportation. It became a sticking point that resulted in last months' shutdown. This time, Senator Brown said Democrats may have to separate the immigration issue from the budget battle.
"We need a long term budget," Brown said, "then we need immediately to begin a debate on how we're going to protect these DACA kids."
Brown said he wants the Senate to discuss comprehensive immigration reform that not only includes protections for Dreamers, but also addresses border security and President Trump's call to reduce legal immigration by ending the diversity visa program (in which millions of would-be immigrants apply annually for a chance to win one of 50,000 visas) and curbing the family visa program (which allows U.S. citizens to sponsor visas for certain family members and bring them to the U.S. over a number of years).
"I don't want to slam the door shut," he said. "I don't want to reduce the number of legal immigrants this country brings in." He added that legal immigration has made the United States "a richer, better country."
Nevertheless, Brown went on to say that he's willing to negotiate.
"There will be things in a final package, some I like, some I don't like," he said. Indeed, Brown has previously shown a willingness to reduce legal immigration.
In 2013, Brown, along with 51 other Senate Democrats, voted to pass the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act," which would have repealed the diversity visa lottery program and reduced family-based immigration in favor of a more "merit-based" system.