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Sen. John Cornyn: There's a deal to be had on DACA, border security

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on Tuesday that there was a "deal to be made" on DACA and border security now that the federal government has resumed operating. But he said that extending a March deadline that ends the deferred action program wouldn't be a wise move.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, at the 2017 Texas Tribune Festival.

With the federal government up and running again, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Tuesday he was confident lawmakers could reach a deal agreeable to both sides of the immigration debate and address the status of undocumented immigrants brought into the country while they were children.

But he added Congress needs to work quickly on the issue and said he is not in favor of extending a March deadline President Trump set in October, when he announced the end of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

The program affects about 124,000 Texans, allowing them to remain in the country and work without the immediate threat of deportation. During a conference call with reporters, Cornyn said he is sympathetic to their concerns but that border security must also be included in whatever proposal is considered for it to have a chance.

Lawmakers agreed on Monday to fund the government until Feb. 8 without agreeing to an immigration compromise. Many Democrats had said they were in favor of shutting down the government unless a deal on DACA was reached. 

“The people I listen to are the 38 percent of the Texas population that are Hispanic, the 124,000 DACA recipients who find themselves in a box and are looking to us for a solution,” Cornyn said. “But I also represent constituents who live along that 1,200-mile border with Mexico who realize that the federal government has failed in its responsibility to provide adequate border security.”

That compromise should include a legislative fix for young undocumented immigrants brought to the country by their parents or other relatives, known as "Dreamers," he said. But he added that it would go nowhere unless some of the president’s other demands were also met.

“While I might use different words to describe what I want, the president wants to keep his campaign commitments for a wall,” the senator said, adding that his idea of a “wall” includes a combination of technology, increased staffing and barriers on the border where necessary.

If lawmakers can’t come to an agreement, some immigrant rights groups have suggested that Trump could extend the March 5 deadline as easily as he imposed it. Cornyn said he wouldn’t favor that move and said Congress is the only appropriate legislative body with the authority to act.

“What I believe President Trump appropriately has acknowledged is this is Congress’ responsibly and that’s why he kicked it back to us,” he said. “I think Congress does work best when we have a deadline [and] I wouldn’t advise the president to change that deadline.”

The federal courts could also have a say in when DACA officially ends. Earlier this month a federal judge in California ruled the federal government must continue to accept DACA renewals while a legal challenge plays out. But although renewals can still be filed, new applications won’t be considered.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to expedite a decision on whether it will take up the case. The Trump administration appealed to the high court after the lower court’s ruling. Legal briefs need to be filed by Feb. 2, according to the order.  

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