Collins Says She’s Optimistic Congress Can Reach Bipartisan Immigration Deal

CBS' Face the Nation.

WASHINGTON (CBSNews) —  Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, tells CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that she’s “optimistic” that Republicans and Democrats in Congress can reach a deal on immigration.

Following the short-term spending bill that funds the federal government until Feb. 8, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has begun work on legislation to protect “Dreamers” under the DACA program from deportation.

The Trump administration released its framework for a deal on Thursday, which includes protections for 1.8 million Dreamers and a boost in spending on border security and enforcement. Collins said it’s “helpful” to know what the White House wants as Congress moves ahead, but suggested legislators would forge their own path in formulating a bill.

“Congress has got to work its will, and ultimately we’ll see what the president is willing to sign. It seems to me that the two important things to tackle right now and that our group will be making some recommendations to those who have legislative authority in this issue on is to protect the Dreamers and also to strengthen border security. The other two issues are very important issues. They’re very complicated issues as well,” said Collins.

The offer from the White House to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship is part of a proposal that includes $25 billion for a “border wall system,” an end to the visa lottery system and restrictions on family-based migration.

Collins, the Senate’s most influential Republican moderate, said she has spoken to Mr. Trump about immigration policy. She said Mr. Trump was “very sympathetic” of Dreamers.

“It’s pretty compelling when you know that the average Dreamer was brought to this country through no fault of his or her own at age six. And to say that those young people should be shipped back to a country that they have no memory of, that they don’t know, is really a pretty difficult position to take,” she added.

While Collins says she gives the president “credit” for putting his priorities in writing despite criticism from his own party, she’s hopeful that members of Congress will have an “influence” on the negotiation process.

“Sen. Durbin and Sen. Cornyn are the leads in the Senate, but they’ve been very open to input. And I think ideas will be funneled to them, and we’ll see what they come up with. But if they agree, I have a feeling that that will be a bill that can go all the way to the president’s desk, and that’s our goal,” said Collins.