“This has been a losing political issue, but they’re still going to be doing it,” Mr. Schulte added. “It’s up to Democrats to decide. The Republican Party cannot stop the Democrats from passing the DREAM Act.”
The White House shares frustration.
“We have a lot of critics, but many of them are not putting forward a lot of solutions,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Monday.
Democrats expect only a handful of Republicans to vote for the Dreamers bill, which also passed in 2019, and slightly more to approve the farmworkers bill, which is the product of bipartisan negotiations and would also revamp an agricultural visa program for future migrants. Together, they would effect as many as 5 million people.
Mr. Biden’s more comprehensive plan has even less support. Moderate Democrats have been hesitant to take difficult votes on a bill they know will be pilloried by Republicans and are pushing for a change in approach to more closely resemble past efforts that traded legalization of undocumented workers for tighter security at the border.
Representative Henry Cuellar, a centrist Democrat from a border district in Texas, said he would like to see “something a little more moderate, especially when it comes to border security.” But he conceded finding a deal was like a balloon: “You press on one side, it expands on the other and you lose some people.”
In the meantime, Republicans smell a potent political weapon.
“Joe Biden and those around him in the White House recognize this is a political catastrophe for them,” Mr. Cotton said in an interview. “They are caught between a rock and a hard spot. On the one hand, you have large numbers of the American people who disapprove of what they see at the border. On the other hand, you have a strong voice in the Democratic Party that disparages borders in general, that thinks we should be granting asylum to all these people.”
Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.