Originally published by Politico
President Donald Trump is sending public and private signals that he is ready to deal on legislation protecting young undocumented immigrants and won’t demand funding for a border wall.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that Trump told her in private that he would sign the Dream Act – a bill that would provide a path to permanent legal status for so-called Dreamers – and that he wants “some border security.” Meanwhile, a top White House aide indicated Tuesday that the Trump administration would not insist that legislation codifying protections for Dreamers be tied to border wall funding.
We’ve been very clear: There is no wall in our DACA future. It’s just not going to happen, Pelosi said in a small roundtable with reporters, recounting her conversations with Trump. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s expensive and ineffective. And so we’re not going to that place.
Pelosi said she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pressed Trump on protection for Dreamers during the Oval Office meeting last week, with the two Democrats saying we will not rest until it is passed as soon as possible.
It was important to us, so we wanted some assurances that the president would sign the bill and that we would have some cooperation in passing such a bill, the California Democrat added. That’s been a major piece of that meeting.
Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, also stressed Tuesday that the administration is most interested in getting border security and that Trump believes a barrier such as a wall is important to that equation of border security.
Whether or not that is part of a DACA equation or whether or not that’s another legislative vehicle – I don’t want us to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible, Short said during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Those comments underscore Trump’s desire to see Congress approve legislation that essentially would turn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – an Obama-era executive action that Trump said this month he would end – into law. The president has given Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix, and several Republicans interested in immigration policy have urged the administration to make clear publicly what it is seeking in any deal.
Democrats have repeatedly drawn a hard line against construction of a 2,000-mile barrier along the southern border with Mexico, either in government spending negotiations or in talks over how to codify DACA into law. Key Democrats have, however, indicated they will have to accept some modest border security measures to pick up support from congressional Republicans on a DACA fix.
Pelosi didn’t indicate what type of border security provisions would be palatable to most Democrats, saying her party was focused on a clean Dream Act and pressuring GOP lawmakers, particularly moderates, to get on board.
House Democrats will launch a discharge petition effort later this month to try to force the issue to the floor, and Pelosi said they will focus on persuading the roughly two dozen House Republicans who have endorsed a more conservative version of the Dream Act sponsored by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.). That legislation, Pelosi said in the reporters’ roundtable, was not good enough.
Apart from the border wall, a host of other controversial policies are likely to arise as potential tradeoffs for legislation concerning DACA.
GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia have said they would like to see their bill that enacts deep cuts to legal immigration levels – legislation endorsed by the White House – attached to any DACA bill. Some Senate Republicans have looked at tougher enforcement measures, such as a broader E-Verify system to prevent businesses from hiring workers without legal status. Conservative Republicans may also continue to insist on a wall.
Meanwhile, Democrats have furiously strategized behind the scenes about how to push the Dreamer issue, especially with must-pass legislation facing Congress throughout the rest of the year.
Some Democrats privately mulled trying to attach legislation that would grant legal status to DACA recipients serving in the military as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate is taking up this week, according to multiple sources.
But Democrats determined that they didn’t want to risk angering Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) – for whom the defense bill is a top priority – particularly because McCain is a longtime champion of comprehensive immigration reform and would be a critical GOP ally in a legislative battle over Dreamers, the sources said.
The Pentagon said last week that about 900 people currently in the military, or who have enlisted, have the temporary DACA protections, according to the Associated Press.
Established by President Barack Obama in 2012, the DACA program grants temporary work permits and protections from deportation to about 690,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors. Though he moved to end the program, Trump has publicly voiced concern about the fate of the hundreds of thousands of young people who are protected by it. He wrote on Twitter last week that he would revisit the issue if Congress fails to act.
White House aides have long considered trying to get Democrats to support funding a border wall – a key pledge of Trump’s during the 2016 campaign – in exchange for moving forward with a Dreamers bill. But, amid a massive public backlash over Trump’s decision to end DACA, the president has grown increasingly eager for a legislative solution to that issue.
Short added later at the breakfast that the president remains committed to building the border wall.
Meanwhile, Pelosi hinted that Obama, who last week condemned Trump’s decision to unilaterally end DACA, would soon become more vocal in the fight on Capitol Hill.
He has made clear his priority was to speak out first and foremost on the Dreamers because this was really wrong, Pelosi said Tuesday. At some point, I’m hopeful that he will be helpful to our House and Senate efforts, and I think he will.
Read more: www.politico.com/story/2017/09/12/trump-dreamers-border-wall-marc-short-242590
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