During a meeting at the White House with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, President Donald Trump seemed convinced that he can usher through a comprehensive immigration reform bill after passing legislation restoring the protections from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Trump held the meeting to reach an agreement to revive DACA’s protections, but his goals for immigration legislation quickly grew. He told lawmakers several times during the remarkable, televised meeting that he thinks comprehensive immigration reform is within reach.
“I think what we’re all saying is we’ll do DACA, and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon. We will take an hour off and start. I do believe that,” Trump told the lawmakers and reporters present. “Because once we get DACA done and it’s done properly, with security and everything else, if it’s done properly, we have taken a big chunk of comprehensive out of the negotiation. And I don’t think it’s going to be that complicated.”
The President’s new, lofty goal of passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill came as part of a lengthy media availability at the meeting. What started as a brief pool spray became an hour-long affair during which lawmakers and Trump debated which issues they would deal with and when — all in front of the cameras.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle made pitches for their pet issues, whether it be helping the young people once protected by DACA or ending “chain migration,” an obsession among conservatives.
With so much back and forth, and several pitches on how to pass a DACA fix, Trump became confused at one point when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) suggested passing a “clean” DACA bill and tackling comprehensive immigration reform later.
“What about a clean DACA bill now with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure?” she asked Trump.
“I have no problem — I think that’s basically what [Sen.] Dick [Durbin (D-IL)] has said,” Trump replied. “We will do DACA and start on the phase two which would be comprehensive. I would like that. I think a lot of people would like to see that. But I think we have to do DACA first.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) then jumped in to clarify that a DACA bill should include funding for more border security, as Trump has supported.
“I think that’s what she is saying,” Trump then said.
Feinstein clarified that she believes border security should be part of a comprehensive bill.
During the hour-long televised debate on immigration, Trump also said that a bill addressing DACA should include provisions that address chain migration, end the visa lottery system and promote merit-based immigration. Though, while he offered his wish list for a bill, he also told the lawmakers in the room that he would sign whatever they agree to.
“My positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with,” he said. “If they come to me with things I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it because I respect them.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, also revealed during the meeting that he and a group of House Republicans will introduce a bill on Wednesday that would restore the DACA protections and address some of the issues on Trump’s wish list, like chain migration.
Following the meeting, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Trump and congressional lawmakers agreed behind closed doors to draw up legislation that would address “four high-priority areas: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.”