WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday called on lawmakers to oppose a series of bipartisan efforts to address immigration and resolve the fate of young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, demanding fealty to his hard-line approach even as more moderate senators converged on a narrower approach.
Senators in both parties are racing against a self-imposed, end-of-the-week deadline to write legislation that could win broad support by increasing border security while at the same time offering a path to citizenship for the young immigrants.
Members of a bipartisan group calling itself the Common Sense Coalition said they had reached a deal to do just that Wednesday, but it is not clear whether their bill could garner the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster. The measure would include $25 billion for the president’s proposed wall at the Mexican border and offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million of the young immigrants, but would preclude their parents from becoming citizens.
The deal could set up a clash between a large and diverse group of senators from both parties against Trump and the Republican congressional leadership.
In a morning statement, Trump urged senators to oppose any bill that did not also embrace the “four pillars” of his immigration approach, which includes a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws that would close the country’s borders to many immigrants trying to come to the United States legally.
“I am asking all senators, in both parties, to support the Grassley bill and to oppose any legislation that fails to fulfill these four pillars,” Trump said in the statement, referring to the measure’s chief sponsor, Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.
The president’s decision to weigh in forcefully is likely to undermine the efforts of several bipartisan groups in the Senate and the House by calling into question whether any legislation they come up with might be dead on arrival once they make it to the president’s desk.
Instead, Trump said in the statement that lawmakers should support Grassley’s immigration legislation to codify his own plan. The bill would provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants, end the visa lottery program, build a border wall, and end what he calls “chain migration,” which is family-based immigration.
“The overwhelming majority of American voters support a plan that fulfills the framework’s four pillars, which move us towards the safe, modern, and lawful immigration system our people deserve,” Trump said.
He added that he would oppose a smaller, “Band-Aid” approach to immigration that some lawmakers have been discussing, which would protect the young immigrants for a few years in exchange for a small increase in border security spending — essentially kicking the issue down the road.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, responded harshly to the president’s entreaty, noting with dismay that Trump last September ended the Obama-era program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protected the young immigrants from deportation and provided them work permits.
“The American people know what’s going on,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “They know this president not only created the problem, but seems to be against every solution that might pass because it isn’t 100 percent of what he wants. If, at the end of the week, we are unable to find a bill that can pass — and I sincerely hope that’s not the case due to the good efforts of so many people on both sides of the aisle — the responsibility will fall entirely on the president’s shoulders and those in this body who went along with him.”
Republicans searching for a compromise on immigration were similarly perplexed.
“The bottom line then is: What do you do next? You can do what we’ve done for the last 35 years — blame each other,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said. “Or you can actually start fixing the broken immigration system. If you came out of this with strong border security — the president getting his wall and the DREAM Act population being taken care of, most Americans would applaud,” referring to a previously failed bill to protect young immigrants.
The deal could set up a clash between a large group of senators from both parties against President Trump.
The top Republicans in both the House and Senate praised the statements from the administration Wednesday, describing it as a boost for the approach that many of their more conservative members support.