- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bipartisan negotiators are looking at a plan that would pay for as little as 10 percent of President Trump’s border wall in exchange for legalizing 1.8 million illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” one of the senators involved in the talks said Thursday night.

Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, said there appears to be consensus on the 1.8 million number, and said they are willing to authorize up to $25 billion for fencing — though they’ll only allocate $2.5 billion to $5 billion in real money.

His numbers tracked with what another Senate source described as the outlines of the deal, which is being floated among a bipartisan group of 20 to 30 senators who call themselves the Common Sense Caucus.

“I think we’re making great progress,” Mr. Tillis said on the Senate floor Thursday.

That would fall far short of what Mr. Trump is looking for, though.

Mr. Trump suggested citizenship rights for 1.8 million people, but said it would have to be coupled with full funding for his border wall and new policy changes to speed up deportations. He also wants an end to the Diversity Visa Lottery that gives away 50,000 immigration passes each year, and wants strict limits on the chain of family members that each immigrant can petition to bring into the U.S.

Mr. Tillis said the visa lottery can be axed, with some of those visas reserved to African countries underrepresented in current immigration, and other visas used to speed up the backlog in other categories of legal immigration.

And Mr. Tillis said lawmakers are considering changes to chain migration — though the source said those would be small, affecting only siblings but not touching parents and adult children. The sibling category accounts for less than 3 percent of the total annual flow of immigrants.

Mr. Trump has called for much bigger changes to chain migration, proposing limiting petitions only to spouses and minor children.

And the president has said he wants to see full funding guaranteed for his wall, proposing a trust fund that would ensure the money can’t be clawed back by future Congresses.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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