The Denver Post

White House: Trump supports immigratio­n bill

- By Seung Min Kim and Mike Debonis Alex Wong, Getty Images

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.

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