WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged Congress on Tuesday to act on a “bill of love” that would both fund a southern border wall and prevent the deportation of about 800,000 young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who are currently shielded under an Obama-era program set to expire in March.
Trump, presiding over a freewheeling meeting on immigration reform at the White House, doubled down on his call for building a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border, saying, “If you don’t have the wall, you can’t have security.”
But he also indicated his willingness to support a comprehensive immigration reform deal to address the future of 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
Trump told a bipartisan group of 25 lawmakers that he would be willing to “take the heat” politically to support a broader immigration reform deal — an offer that appeared to distance Trump from the hardline approach to immigration he touted on the presidential campaign trail.
Late Tuesday night, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] program protecting Dreamers from deportation.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup granted a request by California and other plaintiffs to prevent Trump from ending the DACA program while their lawsuits play out in court.
Alsup said lawyers in favor of DACA clearly demonstrated that the young immigrants “were likely to suffer serious, irreparable harm” without court action. The judge also said the lawyers have a strong chance of succeeding at trial.
In his meeting Tuesday, Trump and lawmakers spoke about reaching a compromise to restore the DACA program. The president told the gathering that their work on safeguarding the so-called Dreamers could open the door for negotiating a more long-term immigration reform package.
“If we do this properly, DACA, you’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform,” Trump told the group.. “And if you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care. I don’t care — I’ll take all the heat you want to give me, and I’ll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat.”
DACA is a program established under an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that has shielded from deportation some 800,000 young immigrants who entered the country illegally as minors. Last September, Trump failed to extend the DACA program, arguing it should be authorized through an act of Congress, not through a presidential order.
Trump convened Tuesday’s meeting as congressional leaders attempt to reach an agreement on a new spending bill before a stopgap measure expires on Jan. 19. The president has insisted that any new spending plan should include money for the border wall, a move opposed by Democrats.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump and the 15 Republicans and 10 Democrats on hand at the meeting agreed to move ahead on negotiating legislation that would address border security, chain migration, the visa lottery system and DACA.
“We firmly, again, believe that border security has to be part of this negotiation and part of this deal,” Sanders said at the daily White House press briefing.
Trump said he would leave it up to lawmakers to hash out a compromise on the four issues that Democrats and Republicans are at odds about. “It should be a bill of love. Truly. It should be a bill of love, but it also has to be a bill where we’re able to secure our border.” Trump said.
Both Senate leaders said Tuesday they expect they will be able to meet the March 4 deadline set by Trump when he announced he would not re-sign Obama’s DACA order, but they disagreed on how that will happen.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after the weekly caucus luncheons, “I will call up a DACA-related bill that I know the president will sign, and that it will not be a part of any overall spending agreement.”
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “We should come up with a plan that Democrats and Republicans can agree on in terms of DACA, add to the large spending bill and get it done, and get it done quickly.” Schumer added Democrats will “insist on it.”
With Tom Brune