Schumer, Pelosi say they have deal with Trump on young immigrants
WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders on Wednesday night declared they had a deal with President Trump to quickly extend protections for young unauthorized immigrants and to finalize a border security package that does not include the president’s proposed wall.
After a White House dinner with the president, the Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, released a joint statement that appeared aimed at ensuring that the president would follow through after their discussions on the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
“We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the president,” the statement said. “The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
In its own statement, the White House was far more muted, mentioning DACA as merely one of several things that were discussed.
“President Donald Trump had a constructive working dinner with Senate and House minority leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, as well as administration officials to discuss policy and legislative priorities,” the statement said. “These topics included tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure and trade. This is a positive step toward the president’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans. The administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle.”
A White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private dinner insisted that the president had stressed his interest in seeing the border wall funded. The wall was a key campaign pledge, but Democrats are vehemently against it, and funding it has remained a thorny issue.
According to a person briefed on the meeting, the president said at the dinner that he was not tethering wall funding to the DACA solution. Trump recently began to wind down DACA, which has provided protection from deportation for roughly 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants. But he has been torn about it, and he has made it clear he would like a legislative fix.
The president is pursuing a bipartisan patina as he heads into the fall legislative season with few major achievements in his first eight months in office.
The meeting Wednesday night was described as a follow-up to one that Schumer and Pelosi held in the Oval Office last week with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, at which Trump astonished — and undercut — his own advisers by leaping at a deal offered by Democrats to attach a stopgap spending bill and debt-ceiling increase to a package of recovery aid for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.
During a White House meeting with moderate House members from both parties earlier Wednesday, Trump had urged lawmakers to come up with a bipartisan solution on immigration.
‘‘We don’t want to forget DACA,’’ Trump told the members at the meeting. ‘‘We want to see if we can do something in a bipartisan fashion so that we can solve the DACA problem and other immigration problems.’’
The apparent deal is the latest example of Trump’s sudden pivot to bipartisanship after months of railing against Democrats as ‘‘obstructionist.’’ He has urged them to join him in overhauling the nation’s tax code, among other priorities.
Trump, who was deeply disappointed by Republicans’ failure to pass a health care overhaul, infuriated many in his party when he reached the three-month deal with Schumer and Pelosi to raise the debt ceiling, keep the government running, and speed relief to states affected by recent hurricanes.
‘‘More and more we’re trying to work things out together,’’ Trump explained Wednesday, calling the development a ‘‘positive thing’’ for both parties.
‘‘If you look at some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done on a bipartisan manner. And so that’s what we’re going to give a shot,’’ he said.
The move toward bipartisanship now would appear to extend to the thorny issue of immigration, which has been vexing lawmakers for years. Funding for Trump’s promised wall had been thought to be a key point of contention between Republicans and Democrats as they tried to forge a deal.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier Wednesday that Trump was ‘‘committed to the wall. It doesn’t have to be tied to DACA but it’s important and he will get it done.’’
Ryan, who also sat down with Pelosi to talk about immigration Wednesday, said during an Associated Press interview that deporting the ‘‘dreamers’’ was ‘‘not in our nation’s interest,’’ and said the president had ‘‘made the right call.’’
‘‘I wanted him to give us time. I didn’t want this to be rescinded on Day One and create chaos,’’ Ryan said, arguing the time would allow Congress to ‘‘come up with the right kind of consensus and compromise to fix this problem.’’
Trump had promised the bipartisan group of House members earlier Wednesday that he would seek a vote in Congress soon on protecting young undocumented immigrants from being deported, Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar said, according to a Bloomberg News report.
“He did say, ‘We need to move on this quickly; I don’t want to wait six months, people forget about it in six months,’" Cuellar of Texas said after Trump met with about a dozen lawmakers who call themselves the problem-solvers.
Cuellar said the president wants to put in law the Obama-era program shielding immigrants illegally brought to the country as children and combine it with increased security along the Mexico border and elements of a separate proposal giving immigration priority to high-skilled workers.
Trump also stressed the need for low-skilled workers in the agricultural industry, Cuellar said.
Trump said his demand for money for a border wall would be addressed separately, the lawmaker said.
Third-ranking Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota said earlier Wednesday a bill is possible this year pairing the young immigrants measure with stronger border security.
“If it’s combined with border security, that’s possible,” Thune said. “Republicans who are inclined to be supportive of some sort of permanent DACA would have to have some border security.”
Material from the Associated Press and Bloomberg News was used in this report.