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Bipartisan group of senators met to discuss immigration reforms

Analysis of Biden's news conference
Recap and analysis of Biden's first White House news conference 20:57

A bipartisan group of senators met on Wednesday to discuss a possible legislative solution to reform the nation's immigration system, multiple aides told CBS News.  The meeting was held one day before President Biden's first press conference, where he was asked repeatedly about the influx of migrants at the border. 

The meeting, which occurred on Wednesday and was organized by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, opened lines of communication between both parties to discuss a legislative path forward, aides told CBS News. A source familiar with the meeting said Durbin has been reaching out to senators and discussing with them one-on-one about their immigration priorities. 

Democratic Senators Alex Padilla of California, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Chris Coons of Delaware, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico and Durbin attended the meeting. They were joined by their Republican colleagues Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and John Cornyn of Texas. A source familiar with the meeting said Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mike Crapo of Idaho could not attend due to scheduling conflicts, but had staff members attend. 

Lujan told reporters Thursday that he was optimistic after the meeting and would still like to look at a comprehensive immigration package.

"I think that everyone has a different way of getting, to getting pieces of legislation across the finish line," Lujan said. "But, when the American people overwhelmingly support many of these packages and provisions, and there's complete agreement that we have a broken immigration system in America, I think that shows that there's a genesis and a willingness to try to find a path forward."

Politico was first to report on the meeting.

The senators' meeting comes  as a surge of migrants are at the border and before Cornyn and fellow Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas are leading a delegation of senators, all Republicans, to the Texas-Mexico border on Friday. Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro is leading a delegation of House members to the Carrizo Springs Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facility on Friday. 

At his first press conference as president on Thursday, Mr. Biden said  he will not apologize for rolling back immigration policies that were in place under former President Trump's administration.

"I make no apologies for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president that have an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law as well as on human dignity," Mr. Biden said.

Last week, the House passed two immigration bills with bipartisan support, one that offers undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country when they were minors, known as "Dreamers," and other recipients of temporary humanitarian programs permanent legal status and another that would implement changes to the H-2A visa program for agricultural workers. Both bills face a difficult path to passing in a 50-50 Senate. 

Republicans have long called for an additional increase in border security funding, while Democrats have continually advocated for permanent legal protections for Dreamers. The Biden administration is facing pressure from both parties to address the situation at the border. Earlier this week, Cornyn and Sinema sent a letter to the president urging Biden to take "aggressive steps to secure our border, protect our communities and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely."

"Your administration should take immediate action in two areas: ensuring there are sufficient resources and facilities at the border to manage the crisis and taking concrete steps to improve the asylum process. Both of these are critical to improving how our nation manages this situation," they wrote.

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