WASHINGTON (CN) - Defending a bipartisan bill that would protect 1.8 million immigrants and funnel $25 million into border security, Senator Lindsey Graham warned Thursday that President Trump risks failure on immigration reform if he follows through with veto threats.
"Mr. President, you're being led down a path where we won't get a result," the South Carolina Republican said during a press conference.
The Common Sense Caucus, as the group calls itself, gathered at the Senate Gallery this afternoon after reaching a deal on a narrow immigration plan late Wednesday. The senators said the full Senate would vote on the bill as an amendment later in the day, but it is unclear whether they have the 60 votes needed for it to pass. The senators did not tell reporters how many votes they had whipped so far.
But the bill faces other challenges, too.
The White House and the Department of Homeland Security offered scathing critiques of the proposal on Thursday, suggesting that it would weaken border security and boost illegal immigration.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders zeroed in on how the plan prioritizes deportation. Along with immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and those who pose a threat to national security, the plan prioritizes immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally after June 30 this year.
"Specifically, preventing enforcement with respect to people who entered our country illegally before a date that is in the future would produce a flood of new illegal immigration in the coming months," Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Homeland Security predicted that the bill “would be the end of immigration enforcement in America and only serve to draw millions more illegal aliens with no way to remove them."
But Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Thursday that the maligned provision has been misunderstood, and that they would be move the date back to Jan. 1 to address the confusion.
"They are going to be a priority for deportation just the way someone who has committed a felony is a priority for deportation," Collins said.
Collins said this prioritization would deter anyone considering entering the country illegally after the bill becomes law.
Collins also defended prioritizing unlawful immigrants with a criminal history.
"Rather than going after a chemistry professor who has been in this country for many years, and has contributed greatly to his community, and sending him back to his native land at a time when he was on his way to pick up his child from school, that the first priority - not the only priority - should be to go after people who have committed felonies," Collins said.
"Wouldn't most Americans agree that that is where our resources should be targeted," Collins asked.
The Common Sense Caucus said the Senate would move to comprehensive immigration reform after first finding a solution for Dreamers, a name given to beneficiaries of DACA, short for Deferred Action for Childhood Enrollment.
While the bill does not meet President Trump's demand to end family migration – what the administration refers to as chain migration - Senator Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said the caucus could agree now to a narrow provision of the bill that would prevent the parents of Dreamers from ever becoming citizens.
“We wanted to begin the process of ending chain migration,” Rounds said. “This is not perfect in that respect, but it starts to make the steps. Allowing these young people to participate freely at the end of between 10 and 12 years as citizens, and yet at the same time respect the fact that their parents - who violated the law - should not be allowed citizenship, was a key part and component of this discussion.”
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