WASHINGTON — White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short told reporters Tuesday that President Trump will not necessarily insist on having border wall funding in a bill to protect young unauthorized immigrants.
Early last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the Obama-era DACA program, which throws the fate of nearly 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants without criminal records into question. They lose their ability to work legally and become eligible for deportation in March on a rolling basis.
But the president said he wants to treat the group with “heart” and encouraged Congress to devise a legislative fix for them without detailing what that bill would look like. Democrats and many Republicans have said they would like to offer a path to legalization for the unauthorized immigrants, who were brought to the country as children.
Short said the president is “committed” to funding a physical structure on the U.S.-Mexico border but that it does not necessarily have to be in the same bill that protects the young unauthorized immigrants.
Trump campaigned relentlessly on building a “beautiful” wall that would span the entire southern border and would be paid for by Mexico. Since taking office he’s attempted to get Congress to fund it instead, but has so far been unsuccessful.
Short’s comments match with what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters last week, after she met with the president in person to strike a three-month deal to raise the debt ceiling that angered some Republican lawmakers.
“The president both yesterday in the meeting and today made it very clear he wants Congress to act, to get this done,” Pelosi told reporters then.
Pelosi added that Trump wants border security measures attached to any bill focused on the immigrants, but that “it does not include a wall.” She said she believed he would sign the DREAM Act, which gives the group a path to citizenship.
Short said the president is “sticking by his commitment” to build a wall but that he hasn’t decided “whether that’s part of the DACA package or another package.” Trump has also endorsed a bill called the RAISE Act that would slash legal immigration rates by nearly half and re-jigger employment-based green cards to be more focused on high-skilled workers. Short said making the immigration system more “merit based” was another priority for the president.
“We do think it’s important to secure our border, [beef up] interior enforcement and we do think we should be moving to a merit-based immigration system,” Short told reporters at the breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor.
Short also declined to say whether Trump would support a path to citizenship for the young immigrants as part of the DACA package, or preferred legalization without a potential citizenship offer for them.
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