Deal or no deal? ‘Dream­ers’ wait ner­vously as Trump, law­mak­ers joust

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front page - By Er­ica Werner and Jill Colvin

The fate of 800,000 young im­mi­grants hung in the bal­ance Thurs­day as top law­mak­ers, White House of­fi­cials and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump him­self squab­bled over whether an agree­ment had been struck to pro­tect them — and if so, ex­actly what it was.

In the face of a back­lash from con­ser­va­tives in­side the Capi­tol and out, Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP House mem­bers in­sisted there was no agree­ment to en­shrine pro­tec­tions for the im­mi­grants brought to Amer­ica as chil­dren and now here il­le­gally.

John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Se­nate Repub­li­can, put it this way: There was “a deal to make a deal.”

Mr. Trump him­self said he was “fairly close” to an agree­ment that could pro­tect the young “Dream­ers” while also adding bor­der se­cu­rity, as long as his long-promised wall with Mex­ico also was sep­a­rately ad­dressed.

Demo­cratic lead­ers Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — whose din­ner with Mr. Trump Wed­nes­day night was at the heart of the con­tro­versy — in­sisted there was dis­cus­sion and even agree­ment on leg­is­la­tion that would of­fer even­tual cit­i­zen­ship to the im­mi­grants in ques­tion.

“We agreed it would be the DREAM Act,” Mr. Schumer told re­porters, re­fer­ring to a bi­par­ti­san bill that would al­low im­mi­grants brought here as chil­dren and now in the U.S.

il­le­gally to work their way to cit­i­zen­ship in as lit­tle as five years if they meet cer­tain re­quire­ments.

But one per­son fa­mil­iar with the meet­ing said the pres­i­dent had agreed not to the DREAM Act, but to nar­rower leg­is­la­tion that would make per­ma­nent the pro­tec­tions of­fered by for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rival­spro­gram.

What was clear was that the out­come for the “Dream­ers” them­selves was still un­re­solved and sub­ject to much fur­ther de­bate and ne­go­ti­a­tion — and that the pol­i­tics of im­mi­gra­tion, which has de­feated Congress for years, re­mained as tricky and ex­plo­sive as ever. Af­ter win­ning the White House on a cam­paign that was re­mark­ably harsh to­ward im­mi­grants and re­volved around con­struc­tion of an enor­mous wall along the en­tire bor­der with Mex­ico, Mr. Trump’s sud­den pivot in­fu­ri­ated some of his clos­est al­lies, and seemed to con­tain more po­ten­tial to alien­ate his base than any of his other un­con­ven­tional­moves.

“He was so ex­plicit dur­ing the cam­paign on the is­sue of the bor­der wall and bor­der se­cu­rity that if he were to back­track on that prom­ise I don’t think he’d have a sin­gle friend left in the coun­try. Democrats aren’t go­ing to sup­port him and he would lose the en­tire Repub­li­can base,” said GOP Rep.Tom McClin­tock of Cal­i­for­nia. “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump im­peached?” con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor Ann Coul­ter re­marke­dover Twit­ter.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials quickly rec­og­nized the dan­ger in the back­lash, and the White House shifted into dam­age con­trol mode, with press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders deny­ing a deal had been struck or the wall ex­cluded from it. Some also won­dered aloud on Thurs­day whether the pres­i­dent was aware of the minu­tiae of the DREAM Act leg­is­la­tion dis­cussed on Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing the fact that it in­cludes an even­tual path to cit­i­zen­ship.

“We’re not look­ing at cit­i­zen­ship, we’re not look­ing at amnesty. We’re look­ing at al­low­ing peo­ple to stay here,” Mr. Trump told re­porters as he trav­eled to view hur­ri­canedam­age in Florida.

“But very im­por­tantly, what we want: We have to have a wall,” Mr. Trump said. “If we don’t have a wall,we’re do­ing noth­ing.”

De­spite Mr. Trump’s de­nial, two peo­ple briefed on Wed­nes­day night’s pro­ceed­ings said that cit­i­zen­ship was ex­plic­itly men­tioned when Democrats raised the DREAMAct.

An­other per­son fa­mil­iar with the meet­ing said that as the pres­i­dent and Mr. Schumer were go­ing back and forth, hash­ing out the con­fines of the agree­ment, the pres­i­dent kept ref­er­enc­ing DACA, while Mr. Schumer kept talk­ing about the DREAM Act. Af­ter Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney in to make clear the dis­tinc­tion, the pres­i­dent sig­naled he un­der­stood the dif­fer­ence and was talk­ing about DACA, the per­son said.

Ex­actly what Mr. Trump and Mr. Schumer agreed to is un­clear. But the pos­ture struck by Mr. Ryan and oth­ers on Capi­tol Hill seemed de­signed to pro­tect the pres­i­dent from a back­lash from his con­ser­va­tive base. Mr. Ryan en­er­get­i­cally dis­puted the idea that any deal had been struck, though his ar­gu­ment seemed to turn largely on se­man­tic dis­tinc­tions.

“These were dis­cus­sions not ne­go­ti­a­tions, there isn’t an agree­ment,” Mr. Ryan said. “… The pres­i­dent was talk­ing with Demo­cratic lead­ers to get their per­spec­tive. I think the pres­i­dent un­der­stands that he’s go­ing to have to work with the con­gres­sional ma­jori­ties to get any kind of leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion.”

Mr. Trump has ap­peared to en­joy his new­found lus­ter as a bi­par­ti­san deal­maker since a dis­as­ter-and-debt deal he struck with Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer last week stunned Wash­ing­ton and gar­nered a stack of pos­i­tive head­lines.

Mr. Schumer, too, clearly rel­ishes the deal­mak­ing; he was caught on a live mi­cro­phone on the Se­nate floor Thurs­day glee­fully telling Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky.: “He likes us!He likes me, any­way.”

Evan Vucci/As­so­ciated Press

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­swers ques­tions from re­porters Thurs­day af­ter land­ing on Air Force One in Fort My­ers, Fla.

Drew An­gerer/Getty Images

Im­mi­gra­tion rights ac­tivists rally Thurs­day in the Brook­lyn bor­ough of New York City dur­ing a protest be­fore a court hear­ing chal­leng­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion's ter­mi­na­tion of the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram.

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