WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Congress in the coming days will receive a “bill of love” to replace the DACA program and strengthen security along the border with Mexico, adding that once those issues are resolved he could approve a broader immigration reform plan.
At a White House meeting with some 25 Democratic and Republican lawmakers, Trump announced that GOP legislator Bob Goodlatte in the coming days will present a bill to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected from deportation thousands of young undocumented migrants brought to this country as children.
It will be a “bill of love” for the so-called DREAMers, Trump said, but he warned that it also must include measures to strengthen security on the US-Mexico border, end “chain migration” that allows US permanent residents to bring their relatives into the country from abroad and end the visa lottery.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who attended the meeting, noted that he had been working on immigration issues for years and supports a path to citizenship for undocumented foreigners, challenging Trump to go beyond a solution for DREAMers and push for comprehensive immigration reform.
“You created an opportunity here, Mr. President, and you need to close the deal,” Graham said.
Trump responded: “If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat,” adding, “You are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
The president said that comprehensive immigration reform would be phase two of any such deal, adding that once the DACA issue and border security are dealt with “the next day” he and lawmakers could deal with overall reform.
It is not clear whether Trump would support a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented migrants estimated to be living in the US. In February 2017, the president said that he would only support legalization of their status – and not citizenship – for immigrants who had not committed serious or violent crimes.
The White House and Congress want to reach a solution as soon as possible for the 690,000 young people who, up until September, were sheltered under DACA, a program implemented by former President Barack Obama in 2012.
In September, Trump announced that he was eliminating DACA but gave Congress until March 5 to find an alternative solution for the DREAMers, although he conditioned any law on that matter to approval of a series of his own immigration demands, one of them being building a wall along the US-Mexico border.
When asked on Tuesday about that by reporters, Trump said that he will not accept any DACA agreement that fails to include funding for the wall and called upon the Democratic opposition to put the country ahead of party.
“We need it,” he said, adding that without it there can be no border security.