U.S. President Donald Trump met Tuesday with key lawmakers on immigration policies, but no breakthrough appeared imminent on how to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from being deported.
The immigration talks at the White House are occurring as Trump and Congress face a January 19 deadline to reach agreement on U.S. government spending through the end of September, after they already were forced three times to agree on temporary budget plans when they were unable to reach a longer-term deal.
Trump last year ended a program championed by former president Barack Obama that protected from deportation 690,000 or more young immigrants who years ago were brought illegally into the U.S. by their parents. Trump, however, gave Congress until March 5 to consider the issue.
But rather than wait another two months to vote on legislation protecting the immigrants in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Democratic lawmakers are pushing to resolve the issue as part of the budget talks.
Trump, even as he ended the DACA program, has occasionally voiced sympathy for the plight of the young immigrants, many of whom only know the U.S. as their home. But in exchange, Trump wants a number of immigration-related measures, including increased security to thwart more illegal immigration along the southern U.S. border with Mexico by constructing a wall he vowed during his 2016 presidential campaign would be built and paid for by Mexico.
Now Trump has called for an initial $18 billion in U.S. taxpayer funding for the wall, a proposal Democrats uniformly are opposed to, along with some Republican lawmakers.
A compromise — with protection for the young immigrants, often called Dreamers by their advocates, and some enhanced border security, without construction of the wall – could eventually be reached. But lawmakers said that is not likely at Tuesday’s meeting as they consider options for resolving the standoff with Trump.
The top Democrat in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, told reporters Monday, “I think we will” reach an agreement on the young immigrants, mainly because neither Democrats nor Republicans want a partial government shutdown at the end of next week.
She said negotiations will center on what immigration compromises Trump might be willing to make with Democrats because “Republicans will by and large vote for anything the president supports. So that’s where the negotiations are taking place.”
A key Senate Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn, said, “I do want us to get to a solution.”