Pres­i­dent may not link ‘DREAM­ers,’ wall

But leg­isla­tive di­rec­tor says bor­der se­cu­rity still is a pri­or­ity

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Heidi M. Przybyla Con­tribut­ing: El­iza Collins

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 (DACA) 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, Short said.

“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 un­con­sti-

“The pres­i­dent be­lieves that a phys­i­cal bar­rier is im­por­tant to that equa­tion of bor­der se­cu­rity.” Marc Short, White House leg­isla­tive di­rec­tor

tu­tional. 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, a New York Demo­crat 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.

ETHAN MILLER, GETTY IMAGES

Rep. Ruben Ki­huen, D-Nev., leads im­mi­grants and sup­port­ers as they march Sun­day on the Las Ve­gas Strip.

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