NATION Trumpmay not link ‘ DREAMers,’ wall
But legislative director says border security still is a top priority
White House legislative director Marc Short said Tuesday that President Trump is not insisting Congress fund a wall along the southern U. S. border as part of a legislative fix to address the fate of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
The comments suggest the “DREAMers,” those protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, may not become a bargaining chip in exchange for Trump’s border wall, a core campaign promise.
The fate of the DREAMers has been unclear since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this month that Trump is ending the program but giving Congress six months to find a legislative solution.
Trump plans to lay out priorities for a DACA fix within the next couple of weeks, said Short.
“We are most interested in getting border security, and the president has made a commitment to the American people that he believes that a physical barrier is important to that equation of border security,” Short told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington.
“Whether or not that is part of a DACA equation or whether or not that’s another legislative vehicle, I don’t want to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible,” he said.
On Sept. 5, Trump began winding down the Obama- era immigration program, and Sessions outlined the reasons the White House believes DACA is unconstitutional. Yet Trump also said at the time he has “great heart” for those protected under the program and that, if Congress doesn’t act, he would “revisit this issue.”
Amid a backlash to the decision, Trump appeared to soften his position about the DREAMers, tweeting they “have nothing to worry about.”
The White House now appears to be clearing the way for a deal to protect DREAMers, a move which could have bipartisan backing in Congress. Trump is interested “in solving the issue of DACA,” Short said, and “believes this is an issue Congress has failed on.”
Since the White House made its decision on DACA, the big question on Capitol Hill has been whether Trump would seek to leverage lawmakers’ support for for the 800,000 young immigrants to get funding for his much more controversial border wall. Before the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, Trump threatened to shut down the government if Congress didn’t provide the funds to build the wall.
Trump made a deal last week with Democratic leaders on government spending, disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey and lifting the debt ceiling — but Democrats have made clear wall funding is a non- starter for a DACA agreement. Rep. Joe Crowley, D- N. Y. and chairman of the Democratic Caucus, has called that position “hostage taking.”
Asked to clarify remarks suggesting Trump is flexible on separating DACA from funding for the wall, Short said the president is not “backing off” the wall.
“The president is committed to sticking by his commitment that a physical structure is what is needed to help protect the American people,” he said. “I’m not going to prejudge today” whether that’s part of DACA.
He declined to comment on whether Trump would be open to providing DREAMers a path to citizenship.
The White House position could rankle some immigration hardliners on Capitol Hill. Rep. Mike Coffman, a moderate from Colorado who has been vocal about the need to protect DREAMers, acknowledged it may be tough to win GOP approval for legislation that deals only with DREAMers.
Coffman dropped a procedural effort— at least for now — to try and force a vote giving protections to DREAMers for three years after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R- Wis., indicated a different strategy.
Ryan “wants to integrate some border security enhancements and wasn’t specific in what that looked like,” Coffman told USA TODAY.
“I think ( Ryan is) going to get pressure from some of the quite frankly hardliners in our conference that do not want to see a fix to this program,” he said.
White House Legislative Affairs DirectorMarc Short said “we are most interested in getting border security.”