The Denver Post
White House: Trump supports immigration bill
WASHINGTON» The White House said Friday that President Donald Trump supports House legislation that closely tracks his priorities on border security and limiting legal immigration, walking back comments he made on national television rejecting the GOP bill.
The reversal came after hours of confusion on Capitol Hill, where Trump’s words roiled a fragile internal debate between conservative and moderate Republicans in the House who have been trying to find an immigration compromise after months of false starts.
“The president supports both the moderate and the more conservative House immigration bill,” one of the two White House officials said Friday. The other official said Trump misunderstood the question that was posed on “Fox and Friends,” which prompted the president to say that he “certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one.”
House Republican leaders had teed up action on two immigration measures: a hard-line draft written by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and legislation billed as a compromise between the moderate and conservative factions of the GOP conference.
The draft compromise bill released Thursday was written with White House input, including from top Trump immigration adviser Stephen Miller, and closely hews to the “four pillars” the administration set out in a January framework.
Among those pillars are guaranteed funding of $25 billion for a physical wall along the Mexican border, ending the Diversity Visa Program that currently offers admission by lottery to 55,000 immigrants each year and an end to the system of family-based immigration that distributes visas to the spouses, children and siblings of U.S. citizens. In return, Trump offered a path to citizenship for roughly 1.8 million “Dreamers” who came illegally to the U.S. as children.
As late as Thursday night, White House officials were coordinating with House Republican leaders over the bill, with the understanding that Trump would endorse it and ultimately sign it if passed.
The administration even drafted and circulated a Statement of Administration Policy — an official White House position on the bill — indicating that Trump’s advisers “would recommend that he sign it into law.”
“The Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 would support the administration’s goals of securing the border, closing legal loopholes, moving to a system of merit-based immigration, and protecting those who were brought to the United States illegally as children,” said a draft statement obtained by The Washington Post.
Then, after Trump made his remarks Friday morning, House Republicans scrambled to determine whether he had a change of heart.
“House Republicans are not going to take on immigration without the support and endorsement of President Trump,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, the Republican chief deputy whip, who said that leadership would delay gauging support for the bill while seeking an explanation from the White House.
In a tweet Friday afternoon, Trump listed his priorities on immigration that hewed closely to the framework of the compromise bill, while never explicitly reversing his opposition.
“The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda. Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!” the president tweeted.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told his members this week that he had briefed Trump on the legislative strategy and that the president was on board.