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Semafor LogoKadia Goba and Joseph Zeballos-Roig
politicsNorth America

It's do-or-die time on an immigration deal

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Title iconThe News
REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz. has been burning up the phones reaching out to Republicans on a last-second immigration deal, her colleagues say. A draft of the bill, which she’s co-sponsoring with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., could be released as soon as today.

Title iconKadia and Joseph's View

Sinema has helped win GOP colleagues over on infrastructure, guns, same-sex marriage, among other issues, giving her an unusual degree of credibility. On Friday morning, she announced she was renouncing her Democratic label altogether and becoming an independent.

An immigration deal that gave certainty to two million Dreamers caught in agonizing limbo while surging resources at the border could seal her reputation as an heir to John McCain.

“Nobody [patrols] the chambers for wayward Republicans better than she does,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, N.D. said.

But Cramer, who has been in touch with Sinema on the bill, sounded wary about signing onto a process that would involve drafting, reviewing, and debating major legislation within a matter of days.

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“That’s a family discussion that takes much longer for people to get comfortable with,” he said.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. worried that the talks were “giving false hope to people that are out there that are really looking for an answer.”

Sinema has gone back-and-forth with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah on the bill, who told reporters they plan to talk more.

But he added that any bill would have to address “individuals claiming asylum that really don’t have any true claim to asylum,” which may require more than simply adding resources to the border.

“I'm skeptical at this point, but certainly open minded and willing to dig into it,” Romney said.

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Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas said ongoing court fights between his state and the administration over the government’s ability to detain migrants and prioritize removals made him wary of signing onto a deal.

“It’s the 600-pound gorilla in the room,” Cornyn told Semafor. “It creates a loss of any confidence that they are going to actually use the laws that we pass to enforce border security.”

On the Democratic side, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. suggested the bill should be expanded to help bring in more skilled workers from abroad to work at U.S. semiconductor plants subsidized by the CHIPS Act.

“Unless we can bring some people to train Americans, we’re not going to be able to build these facilities,” he said.

Title iconRoom for Disagreement

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who is retiring at the end of the year, sounded the most optimistic, so long as they kept negotiations tight and avoided incorporating too many topics.

“If we can get a bill that solves two or three of the problems and make enough members happy in the House and Senate to move forward, plus the Border Patrol, I think we ought to do that,” he said.

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