Daca: Democrats say agree­ment reached with Trump to pro­tect young im­mi­grants

The Guardian Australia - - Politics / World News - David Smith and Sab­rina Sid­diqui in Wash­ing­ton

Se­nior Democrats stunned Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day by claim­ing that they had agreed with Don­ald Trump on a plan to pro­tect so-called Dream­ers, young im­mi­grants who were brought il­le­gally to the US as chil­dren.

Sen­a­tor mi­nor­ity leader Chuck Schumer and House coun­ter­part Nancy Pelosi, who dined with the president at the White House, said they had reached an agree­ment to quickly en­shrine into law pro­tec­tions for the nearly 800,000 im­mi­grants who ben­e­fited from Barack Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (Daca) pro­gramme.

A per­son briefed on the meet­ing said Trump agreed with the Democrats to pair the bi­par­ti­san Dream Act, which pro­vides a path to per­ma­nent res­i­dency for un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants brought to the US il­le­gally as chil­dren, with some form of bor­der se­cu­rity – ex­clud­ing Trump’s promised bor­der wall.

Trump on Thurs­day ap­peared to sug­gest­ing a sim­i­lar out­line agree­ment - say­ing in an early morn­ing tweet that “mas­sive bor­der se­cu­rity would have to be agreed to in ex­change” - though also de­nied he had struck a deal on Daca.

He ex­pressed sup­port for the Dream­ers in later tweets, say­ing: “Does any­body re­ally want to throw out good, ed­u­cated and ac­com­plished young peo­ple who have jobs, some serv­ing in the mil­i­tary? ...They have been in our coun­try for many years through no fault of their own”

It was not im­me­di­ately clear what spe­cific bor­der mea­sures would be in­cluded. Im­me­di­ately af­ter the an­nounce­ment from Pelosi and Schumer, the White House press sec­re­tary, Sarah Huck­abee San­ders, tweeted that there had “cer­tainly not” been an agree­ment ex­clud­ing the wall. “While DACA and bor­der se­cu­rity were both dis­cussed, ex­clud­ing the wall was cer­tainly not agreed to,” she said.

In re­sponse, Schumer’s spokesman said that Trump said he would “con­tinue push­ing the wall, just not as part of this agree­ment”.

Trump also tweeted on Thurs­day that work on the wall would “con­tinue”, claim­ing that it was “al­ready un­der con­struc­tion in the form of new ren­o­va­tion of old and ex­ist­ing fences and walls”.

Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint

state­ment: “We had a very pro­duc­tive meet­ing at the White House with the President. The dis­cus­sion fo­cused on Daca. We agreed to en­shrine the pro­tec­tions of Daca into law quickly, and to work out a pack­age of bor­der se­cu­rity, ex­clud­ing the wall, that’s ac­cept­able to both sides.

“We also urged the president to make per­ma­nent the cost-shar­ing re­duc­tion pay­ments, and those dis­cus­sions will con­tinue.”

Af­ter the din­ner, a White House of­fi­cial was more non-com­mit­tal than the Democrats, say­ing: “President Don­ald Trump had a con­struc­tive work­ing din­ner with Se­nate and House mi­nor­ity lead­ers, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, as well as ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials to dis­cuss pol­icy and leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties. Th­ese top­ics in­cluded tax re­form, bor­der se­cu­rity, Daca, in­fras­truc­ture and trade.”

As re­ports of the agree­ment sur­faced, con­ser­va­tives sug­gested they had been be­trayed by Trump.

“‘BUILD THE WALL! BUILD THE WALL !’... or ... maybe ... not re­ally ,” tweeted Laura In­gra­ham, a rightwing ra­dio host and soon-to-be Fox News an­chor.

Steve King, one of the most stead­fast op­po­nents of im­mi­gra­tion re­form in Congress, ad­dressed his tweet to the president stat­ing that if re­ports were true, “Trump base is blown up, de­stroyed, ir­repara­ble, and dis­il­lu­sioned be­yond re­pair. No prom­ise is cred­i­ble.”

The news was wel­comed by at least one pro-im­mi­gra­tion Repub­li­can law­maker, Sen­a­tor Jeff Flake of Ari­zona, who tweeted: “Ku­dos to @POTUS for pur­su­ing agree­ment that will pro­tect #Dream­ers from de­por­ta­tion”.

Im­mi­gra­tion has long been a po­lar­iz­ing is­sue on Capi­tol Hill, ex­ac­er­bated in re­cent years by the anti-im­mi­grant sen­ti­ment that has swept over the Repub­li­can base. Mul­ti­ple ver­sions of the Dream Act have been thwarted by con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion. But a bi­par­ti­san pair of sen­a­tors, Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina and Dick Durbin of Illi­nois, un­veiled a yet an­other ver­sion of the leg­is­la­tion in July.

Then, on 5 Septem­ber, Trump left the fate of hun­dreds of thou­sands of Dream­ers hang­ing in the bal­ance with a de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate Daca. The 2012 Obama-era pro­gramme had granted them tem­po­rary sta­tus, en­abling them to study or work with­out fear of de­por­ta­tion.

Trump an­nounced that the pro­gramme would be phased out over six months..In a rare state­ment, Obama dubbed Trump’s de­ci­sion as lack­ing in “ba­sic de­cency”.

Faced with swift and over­whelm­ing back­lash from both par­ties, Trump sug­gested the same day he might “re­visit” the is­sue if Congress failed to re­solve the sta­tus of Dream­ers through leg­is­la­tion.

It was Trump who ex­tended the in­vi­ta­tion to Schumer and Pelosi, ac­cord­ing to a source fa­mil­iar with the meet­ing, to fol­low up on their dis­cus­sion last week of the nu­mer­ous fis­cal dead­lines fac­ing Congress.

Trump, a busi­ness­man whose book was en­ti­tled The Art of the Deal, ruf­fled feath­ers last week when, meet­ing lead­ers from both par­ties in the Oval Of­fice, he sided with Schumer and Pelosi on a three­month ex­ten­sion to the debt ceil­ing – some­thing Ryan had dis­missed as “ridicu­lous” only hours ear­lier.

Then, on Air Force One, he seemed amenable to bi­par­ti­san co­op­er­a­tion on Daca, say­ing: “Chuck and Nancy would like to see some­thing hap­pen, and so do I.” At Pelosi’s re­quest, he tweeted a mes­sage of re­as­sur­ance to Dream­ers that they would not be de­ported in the next six months.

Lib­eral ac­tivists have urged Schumer and Pelosi to be cau­tious when ne­go­ti­at­ing with Trump.

Speak­ing ear­lier on Wed­nes­day, Neil Sroka, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for the pro­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee Democ­racy for Amer­ica, said: “Trust­ing this nar­cis­sist in the White House, who just weeks ago was try­ing to equiv­o­cate on white supremacy, runs a real risk for Democrats. Be­ing seen palling around with Don­ald Trump is not a risk-free en­deav­our. But in dan­ger­ous times like th­ese, Democrats have an obli­ga­tion to do what it takes to achieve our agenda, and that in­volves tak­ing risks some­times.”

Ear­lier on Wed­nes­day, Huck­abee San­ders was asked about the ab­sence of Repub­li­can Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader Mitch Mc­Connell and House speaker Paul Ryan from the din­ner hosted by Trump. “I think it’s pretty disin­gen­u­ous for peo­ple to say he’s only meet­ing with Democrats,” she said.

“The president is the leader of the Repub­li­can party and was elected by Repub­li­cans. He beat out 16 other can­di­dates to take that man­tle on, and cer­tainly, I think, is one of the strong­est voices. And so the idea that the Repub­li­can party ideas are not rep­re­sented in that room is just ridicu­lous.”

The Amer­i­can peo­ple elected Trump be­cause they were tired of busi­ness as usual, Huck­abee San­ders added. “They wanted some­body who would break up the sta­tus quo, that would bring peo­ple from both sides of the ta­ble to­gether to have con­ver­sa­tions.”

Like Trump, Schumer is from New York, prompt­ing some com­men­ta­tors to sug­gest that they have a per­sonal chem­istry that the president lacks with Mc­Connell or Ryan.

Speak­ing be­fore Wed­nes­day night’s deal, Sid­ney Blu­men­thal, a for­mer se­nior ad­viser to President Bill Clin­ton, said: “Both Schumer and Trump are outer bor­ough boys from New York: they’re very dif­fer­ent but speak the same lan­guage.”

Blu­men­thal added: “Trump doesn’t de­spise Schumer and Pelosi but he does hate Mc­Connell and Ryan. He feels they have hu­mil­i­ated him. Trump’s cen­tral mo­tive is re­venge for per­ceived hu­mil­i­a­tion.”

Trump dined with the Demo­cratic lead­ers in the Blue Room of the White House, ac­cord­ing to a source. The first 30 min­utes of the meet­ing fo­cused on trade is­sues per­tain­ing to China.

Trump sat at the head of the ta­ble, the source said, with Pelosi to his right and Schumer to his left. A to­tal of 11 peo­ple at­tended the din­ner, in­clud­ing sev­eral cabi­net of­fi­cials: home­land se­cu­rity sec­re­tary John Kelly, trea­sury sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin, com­merce sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross, and bud­get direc­tor Mick Mul­vaney. Gary Cohn, the direc­tor of the na­tional eco­nomic coun­cil, and Marc Short, the White House direc­tor of leg­isla­tive af­fairs, were also at the meal.

Pho­to­graph: J. Scott Ap­ple­white/AP

Pelosi and Schumer said the meet­ing with the president was ‘very pro­duc­tive’.

Pho­to­graph: Alex Wong/Getty Im­ages

Chuck Schumer also met with Trump in the Oval Of­fice on 6 Septem­ber.

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