DACA dilemma complicates funding talks

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," January 16, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-ILL.: How did he characterize those countries in Africa?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I don't specifically remember the categorization of countries in Africa.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-VT.: Last week in the Oval Office President Trump reportedly said the most vulgar and racist things I've ever heard a president of either party utter.

NIELSEN: I don't dispute that the president was using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language.

SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-N.J.: Your silence and your amnesia is complicity. I hurt. When Dick Durbin called me, I had tears of rage when I heard about the experience in that meeting. That's unacceptable to me.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: To the 700,000 plus DACA kids, we're not going to leave you behind. We're not going to let this end like it is. And to those who have been desirous of a more secure border, you are going to get something too because it has to be done together.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Three business days left. Funding of the U.S. government ends Friday night if they don't pass a continuing resolution to kick the can again, which it looks likely. The president tweeting today about this immigration issue, "The Democrats want to shut down the government over amnesty for all and border security. The biggest loser will be our rapidly rebuilding military at a time we need it more than ever. We need a merit based system of immigration, and we need it now! No more dangerous lottery."

This comes on a day when the Department of Homeland Security and the DOJ released a report with some amazing statistics and scary ones. At least 549 individuals convicted of international terrorism related charges in U.S. federal courts between 9/11 and December 31, 2016. Three out of four of those people, about 73 percent, were foreign board. Over that same period immigration and customs enforcement removed about 1,700 aliens with national security concerns. And last year alone Homeland Security encountered 2,500 individuals on the terrorist watch list traveling to the U.S., 2,100 by air, 335 land, 49 by sea.

Let's bring in our panel: Guy Benson, political editor at Townhall.com; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio and Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times.

OK, Mara, that hearing was pretty interesting with the secretary of Homeland Security. At times got fiery as you heard Cory Booker there. But they bottom line is they are not closer.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: They are not closer. They have this framework that the small group of six has worked out which is a certain amount of money for the wall and border security, path to citizenship for the Dreamers. But now that group has expanded to be a little bit more representative. It includes some leadership. And they are working on it.

And what I have heard at the White House and elsewhere, most people expect that there will be another short-term funding bill. In other words they are going to kick this issue down the road because the deadline for DACA is not until March 5th.

BAIER: Some Democrats saying they are not going to do that.

LIASSON: There are problems on both sides, but there are Democrats, especially ones that are thinking about running for president in 2020, who won't vote for a funding bill, temporary or not, unless it includes a solution for the Dreamers. But that's not going to happen by Friday.

BAIER: OK, the White House legislative director is of the same mindset, up on Capitol Hill, Marc Short.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your sense of the chance that an immigration deal can come together?

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: I think that we are optimistic that we will get a deal. I think this week would be fairly herculean.


BAIER: Fairly herculean, which in layman's terms is "no way."

GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM: Yes, that's what he's saying, and so what the White House is going to push for and the Republicans in Congress is let's kick the can again. I guess the whole regular order thing is just gone. That was a fiction or a fantasy. And then there will be a fight I think within the Democratic Party about what do they do. Do they plant a flag, filibuster and threaten to shut down over this, or do they say we've got still well over a month. Let's continue this negotiation in good faith.

I would point out 18 Senate Democrats voted for the last continuing resolution in December and they came under some heat from the left. I think I would be surprised if they get back to 18 again. But I would also be surprised if the Democrats actually push the button on a shutdown fight at this stage.

LIASSON: They might not need Democrats in the house. The last time, they got enough Republicans. They need them in the Senate.

BENSON: This is all in the Senate with the filibuster.

CHARLES HURT, WASHINGTON TIMES: But if they are going to get it through in the House, there's going to have to be a whole lot more in terms of the security stuff, obviously, then is in the Senate bill.

But I do think it's worth stepping back for a minute. We now have a Republican president, a president with a party that is against amnesty here, who has come I would say a great distance towards the middle and offered to come up with some sort of deal that will grant amnesty, maybe not citizenship, but a pathway to regularization, which is amnesty, for hundreds of thousands of illegals now in the country. That's a huge step in that direction.

And I think that what we are seeing right now is basically the fallout of that extra ordinary meeting, three extraordinary meetings ago, last week in the White House where you actually had the president there, you had Democrats, you had Republicans all hashing this stuff out. And when Democrats went back to the Hill, they got killed from their lobbyists and people that do not want them to budge on the security stuff because -- and they want them to stand firm on amnesty only.

BAIER: Lindsey Graham suggested today that the president perhaps got killed from the right and changed what he was telling them or how he was sounding to them, according to Graham, between Tuesday and Thursday when that Oval Office meeting happens. LIASSON: Right. And Graham even makes a distinction between the president at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday and the president at noon on Thursday because he says he had a conversation with the president on the phone, seemed pretty positive about what he and Dick Durbin and others were working on. Then he comes up at noon, and he described something that sounded like a conservative intervention. In other words, before he could get there, all of a sudden Goodlatte and other hawks on immigration, Cotton, were in the room, which he didn't expect.

BENSON: And based on what I read about rumors of what was in the deal, to me didn't seem like a very good deal. I'm pretty pragmatist, centrist on the immigration issue. If you're going to grant an amnesty to the Dreamers, which I am in favor of, and if you're going to allow some sort of legal status to their parents as well, which apparently was --

LIASSON: At least protection from deportation.

BENSON: In this discussion, which is some form of legal protection, that creates a powerful magnetic incentive for more illegal immigration. Any amnesty always will. And to counterbalance that you have to have meaningful border security and enforcement. And I think that what was being discussed at least based on the reports was insufficient on that point. The outlines of a deal to me are obvious. They are not there yet.

BAIER: I just want to play one more sound bite and that is that perked some ears. This is the Homeland Security secretary on sanctuary cities. We've heard this issue before, how to deal with sanctuary cities, how this administration would. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we charge some of these sanctuary cities with violating federal law.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: How do you force the point?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to work with the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice needs to do a couple things. Number one, they need to file charges against the sanctuary cities.

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I believe the request was made the Department of Justice is reviewing what avenues might be available. The context of this not only putting my ICE officers at risk but also finding an efficient and effective way to enforce our immigration laws.


BAIER: That's pretty interesting.

HURT: It is. And I think the Democrats are also going to find that they are dealing with somebody very different here. They are, you know, they have tried this racism thing, accusing Donald Trump of being a racist because he wants to come up with a sensible security strategy here. And I think he is calling their bluff on it. And we'll see how that shakes out. But I think that if he is going to go toe to toe with them over that issue, I think that Republicans have a pretty good hand.

Content and Programming Copyright 2018 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.