Trump’s border wall links to DACA may ease
WASHINGTON — A top aide to President Donald Trump signaled on Tuesday that the White House may back off its calls to pair funding for new border wall construction with a bill to provide legal protections to hundreds of thousands of immigrants known as “Dreamers,” signaling that the emotionally charged issue may prove easier to resolve than initially thought.
Trump last month began a six-month countdown to the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that currently provides legal protections to about 690,000 people, and said it would be up to lawmakers to come up with a solution. The decision has been widely criticized by members of both parties.
Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, told a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that Trump “believes that a physical barrier is important” between the United States and Mexico. But he said the administration does not “want to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible.”
Short’s comments came as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated that House Democrats are quickly coalescing around legislation that would grant legal protections to DACA recipients and set them on a yearslong course to apply for U.S. citizenship. The Dream Act is co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, including Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
Pelosi said House Democrats are gathering support for a petition to force House Speaker Paul Ryan to hold a vote on that legislation as early as the first weeks of October. For such a strategy to succeed, Pelosi would have to obtain signatures from every Democrat in the House and at least 24 Republicans. She said Democrats should act quickly to take advantage of a moment when there appears to be widespread support for extending legal protections for those covered under DACA.
Several recent polls have shows that a majority of voters support extending legal protections for DACA recipients. A recent NBC News/ SurveyMonkey poll found less than one-third — 30 percent — of respondents said they oppose DACA.
But the issue of border wall funding is still likely to emerge as a sticking point in spending talks later this year. Congress voted last week to extend current federal spending levels through Dec. 8, leaving lawmakers three months to work out a longterm spending agreement. Short hinted that Trump may demand border wall funding as a part of those negotiations.
In recent days, Trump has also privately approached Schumer to discuss trading protections for DACA recipients — widely referred to as “Dreamers” — for new border wall funding, according to a person familiar with their exchange.
Congressional Democrats have said they will not discuss any deal involving new money for border wall construction, but are open to discussing broader border security measures.
In a 2013 bipartisan immigration reform bill, Schumer and dozens of other Democrats supported billions of dollars in new funding to hire U.S. Border Patrol agents and to deploy drones and other technology to scan and protect the southern border — proposals that are still considered viable today, aides have said.
But Schumer, Pelosi and other Democrats have called construction of more border wall “immoral” and a misguided use of federal dollars, especially at a time when the federal government needs to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in relief aid to rebuild parts of Florida, Texas and Louisiana after recent major hurricaes.
The issue of border wall funding is still likely to emerge as a sticking point in spending talks later this year, despite support for extending legal protections for DACA recipients.