U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham was not invited to a White House meeting Tuesday between President Donald Trump and leaders of Congress to discuss immigration issues. But she went anyway.
The Albuquerque Democrat, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is among lawmakers who have been working for months on legislation that would extend legal status for immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.
Politico reported on its website that she rode to the White House with House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., one of two dozen or so leaders from both political parties Trump invited to the meeting. Politico said Lujan Grisham “joked ahead of the meeting that given her petite size — she is one of the shortest members of Congress — it should be easy to sneak her onto the White House grounds.”
But she wasn’t turned away.
Lujan Grisham can be seen sitting at the end of a long table in the Roosevelt Room of the White House during a 50-plus-minute video of the gathering recorded by The Washington Post. Lujan Grisham doesn’t speak during the part of the meeting in which news cameras were allowed in the room before Trump had reporters ushered out.
The president presided over a discussion that largely dealt with efforts to reach an agreement on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that shielded from deportation nearly 800,000 immigrants dubbed Dreamers but which Trump scrapped.
Efforts to later reach Lujan Grisham by phone were unsuccessful Tuesday. A statement issued Tuesday evening by a spokesman for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus quoted her as saying “I was obligated to attend today’s White House meeting so that my constituents and the millions of people that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus represents had a seat at the table as we work to enact a permanent legislative fix for Dreamers by January 19th.”
An aide sent a recording of her talking to a small group of reporters after the meeting. She said that even though she wasn’t invited to the gathering, the White House treated her with respect. “I didn’t feel like a crasher once I was there at all,” she said.
“I felt really good when the president said several times if you [members of Congress] bring me something that resolves the DACA problem, I will sign it,” she said.
Trump indeed says several times on the video that “it should be a bipartisan bill,” and that “It should be a bill of love.”
But in addition to resolving the DACA policy, Trump said it’s important to deal with border security and to end the practice of “chain migration,” a visa program through which immigrants already residing in the United States can bring family members into the country.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress have strong disagreements over details in border security proposals and “chain migration.”
Lujan Grisham told reporters, “Members of Congress and this administration are making it harder than it ought to be.”
But she insisted she is optimistic.
“The president called the meeting,” she said. “… and he kept saying, ‘Give me something and I will sign it.’ ”
Lujan Grisham is running for governor of New Mexico rather than seek re-election to Congress.