President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday evening that he would support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrant “Dreamers” who won protection under DACA, as part of an immigration package in Congress, as he again said that plan must include substantial money for his border wall, and close certain immigration loopholes.
“We’re going to morph into it,” the President told a group of reporters at the White House, when asked about citizenship for younger illegal immigrants who were DACA recipients.
“It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years,” he said of the citizenship path.
That time frame for a path to citizenship is identical to one used in a bipartisan Senate bill – a measure that the White House rejected earlier this week as, “dead on arrival.”
Asked for clarification, the President told reporters to make sure that the Dreamers know they will be able to stay.
“Tell them not to be concerned, okay? Tell them not to worry,” the President said.
“President Trump’s support for a pathway to citizenship will help us get strong border security measures as we work to modernize a broken immigration system,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“With this strong statement I have never felt better about our chances of finding a solution on immigration,” Graham added.
Other Republicans were more guarded in their response to the President’s public embrace of a path to citizenship for Dreamers, rattling off a series of other conditions for the bill.
Along those lines, the President Wednesday also again emphasized the need for an immigration deal to include $25 billion this year for his border wall, and another $5 billion for other immigration enforcement efforts.
“If there is no wall, there is no DACA,” Mr. Trump said.
President Trump’s comments came a few hours after the White House announced that he would unveil an immigration plan that would be acceptable to him, on Monday.
“The President wants to lead on this issue, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who sidestepped questions about what the President would do on a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
“There’s nothing currently on the table that addresses all the concerns,” Sanders said, a day after saying a bipartisan Senate plan would be “dead on arrival” at the White House.
“We encourage the Senate to bring it to the floor,” Sanders said of the new Trump plan to be laid out on Monday.
On Tuesday, Sanders set out four different pillars of what the President wants in any deal, which included ‘serious’ border security, an end to the diversity visa lottery program, an end to chain migration, and then a permanent solution for the DACA program.
Late on Tuesday night, the President reiterated on Twitter that he wants money for a border wall as part of any immigration deal.
The move by the President to release his own immigration plan runs counter to what he told lawmakers two weeks ago at a White House meeting, as Mr. Trump said he would basically sign whatever the Congress came up with on immigration and immigration reform.
“I will take all the heat you want to give me,” the President said. Two days later, he rejected a bipartisan compromise put together by six U.S. Senators.
Now, the President wants to Senate to accept his plan.
“The White House will release a legislative framework on Monday that represents a compromise that members of both parties can support,” Sanders told reporters.
“We encourage the Senate to bring it to the floor.”
The timing of the details is also notable, because President Trump will be addressing Congress the next day – on Tuesday – in his first State of the Union Address.