WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was close to a deal with Democratic congressional leaders on protections for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, a development that alarmed some of his conservative supporters.
Trump, who met with the top Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, at the White House on Wednesday evening, said any final agreement must include significant measures to protect border security.
The Republican president added that funding for his planned wall along the US-Mexican border — a centrepiece of his 2016 presidential campaign — would “come later” and would not be part of any final deal on the fate of the 800,000 so-called Dreamers. But, speaking to reporters, he said Democrats “cannot obstruct the wall.”
“We have to have an understanding that whether it’s in the budget or some other vehicle in a very short period of time, the wall will be funded. Otherwise, we’re not doing anything,” Trump said as he landed in Florida to survey hurricane damage.
Schumer and Pelosi reiterated their opposition to the wall, and Democrats in the past have promised to block funding for it.
“I think we’re fairly close but we have to get massive border security,” Trump told reporters earlier in the day of a potential deal.
Trump also said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were both “on board” with the potential deal on immigration issues and that “we’re doing it in conjunction with the Republicans.” The potential agreement was the latest development in the president’s newfound willingness to work with Democrats after his fellow Republicans, who control Congress, failed to deliver legislative victories on healthcare and other matters.
Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme earlier this month but made that effective in March, giving lawmakers six months to come up with an alternative for the Dreamers. DACA, created by Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, shields the Dreamers, mostly Hispanic young adults, from deportation and provides work permits.
Trump faced a quick backlash from his hardline conservative political base over his potential deal on DACA.
He had promised as a candidate to deport all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, and said a wall would be built to stop the flow from Mexico of illegal immigrants and drugs. — Reuters