WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday left the door open for unilateral action protecting the young immigrants whose fates are tied to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but he said he has “no second thoughts” about rescinding the Obama-era initiative.
Congress will successfully replace DACA with legislation before its six-month phaseout period is up, he predicted.
“If they don’t, we’re going to see what we’re going to do,” he told reporters.
The remark was in keeping with Trump’s Tuesday night tweet saying he “will revisit” DACA if Congress doesn’t act.
But the tweet came after Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spent most of Tuesday condemning former President Barack Obama for unconstitutional executive overreach as they announced they are dismantling DACA.
The program grants deportation reprieve to about 800,000 young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children and now attend school, work and serve in the military. DACA beneficiaries call themselves Dreamers after legislation that could provide them with legal status.
On Tuesday, Trump said Congress must “do something and do it right. And really, we have no choice.”
On Wednesday, he said it may ultimately be up to him and denied his messaging is muddled.
“No mixed signal at all,” he said. “Congress, I really believe, wants to take care of this situation. I really believe it — even very conservative members of Congress. . . . If they don’t, we’re going to see what we’re going to do.”
He then referenced the top Democrats on Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I,” Trump said. “And I said if we can get something to happen, we’re going to sign it, and we’re going to make a lot of happy people.”
The president said he would like to see DACA legislation be “a permanent deal” that comes with “good border security.”
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters indicated that Trump might pressure Congress, rather than resort to an executive order.
“If Congress does not take action on its own initiative, the president will make the case more directly to the American people to help ensure that Congress does its job,” she said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said at the Capitol that he wants a border security focus in the DACA deal.
“We want to make sure that we fix this issue for these kids, for these young people, and address the root cause of the problem, so we don’t have the same thing 10 years from now,” he said.
Schumer separately called for a stand-alone vote.
“If a clean Dream Act does not come to the floor in September, we’re prepared to attach it to other items this fall until it passes,” he said.
Also Wednesday, Trump traveled to Bismarck, North Dakota, to help sell his proposal to overhaul the tax code. It was his second trip in two weeks to build public support for the concept, though his aides have said he is leaving the details and the bill-writing to legislators.
He told the crowd at an oil refinery that the complex tax code has became a “giant, self-inflicted economic wound.”
Earlier in the day, the White House announced the recipients of the $1 million donation the president and first lady Melania Trump are making to Harvey storm relief efforts. They include the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, which will receive $300,000 each.