Trump Calls For DACA Bill

Jan 10, 2018
Originally published on January 10, 2018 5:11 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's what a federal judge said about President Trump's move on DACA - that's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protections for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. President Trump said he would end President Obama's program. That created pressure for Congress to extend it by law. And then last night, a judge in California issued an injunction, saying much of DACA will remain in effect for now. The judge said Trump's effort to remove it is likely to be found arbitrary and capricious and, thus, illegal. You're not supposed to be arbitrary and capricious when you're president. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now.

Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what was the political backdrop for this court ruling?

HORSLEY: Well, lawmakers have been facing a couple of deadlines to deal with DACA. One is just over a week from now when Congress needs to pass a spending bill to keep the government's lights on. And Democrats had hoped to use that must-pass bill as a vehicle to do something about DACA. The second deadline was coming in early March when some of the so-called DREAMers were going to be facing the risk of deportation...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

HORSLEY: ...If something wasn't done. Now, the ruling in San Francisco may sort of defuse that second deadline, but advocates for the DREAMers are urging Democrats not to use that as an excuse to take the heat off.

INSKEEP: OK. So some of the pressure is off, but it is a temporary injunction. We don't know what the final ruling would be in that court case or when it would come. So in the midst of all of this, there's this meeting yesterday. The president brings a couple dozen lawmakers to the White House - Republicans and Democrats - and they start chatting at the table, photo opportunity, but then the cameras just stay and stay and stay as they talk.

HORSLEY: Yeah, that's what made this unusual. It wasn't the ordinary 30-second photo op where the press corps is then shooed out of the room. In this case, reporters and TV cameras were able to listen in for almost an hour. Most of the conversation was very respectful. Let's take a listen to the president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital because it should be a bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly, it should be a bill of love, and we can do that.

INSKEEP: I'm kind of choked up - a bill of love.

HORSLEY: (Laughter) Yeah, that "Kumbaya" feeling, though, is actually pretty superficial. There is no getting around the fact that the immigration bill is just still very divisive. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who is one of the hardliners in the GOP on immigration, he says there's a real lack of trust, both between Republicans and Democrats and also within the Republican Party.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM COTTON: Most fundamentally, a lack of trust between the American people and our elected leaders on not delivering a solution for many, many years about some of these problems.

HORSLEY: Cotton is one of the lawmakers who has been calling for big changes in the legal immigration system, including a reduction in family-based immigration, or what the critics call chain migration, as well as an end to the visa lottery. Those are both changes the president has embraced along with his call for stepped up border enforcement and, of course, a wall.

INSKEEP: Of course, Democrats are not big fans of any of those proposals. So what is it that Democrats would want to get out of this deal?

HORSLEY: You know, Democrats say they're not opposed to some kind of enhanced border security, but they don't think a wall is a good way to achieve that. And they say, look, immigration is so complicated, but the DREAMers are a relatively easy, sympathetic subset. So why don't we just try tackling DACA by itself, first? Here's the way Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein broached the idea with the president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DIANNE FEINSTEIN: What about a clean DACA bill now and with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform?

TRUMP: I have no problem - I think that's basically what Dick is saying. We're going to come out with DACA. We're going to do DACA. And then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive.

FEINSTEIN: Would you be agreeable to that?

TRUMP: Yeah, I would like to do that.

KEVIN MCCARTHY: Mr. President.

HORSLEY: For just a moment there it sounded as if the president was ready to make a deal with the Democrats. And that's when House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy jumped in and said wait a minute.

(SOUDNBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MCCARTHY: Mr. President, you need to be clear, though. I think what Senator Feinstein's asking here - when we talk about just DACA, we don't want to be back here two years later. You have to have security, as the secretary would tell you.

TRUMP: But I think that's what she's saying.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No, she's not.

MCCARTHY: No. No. No. I think she's saying something different.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

HORSLEY: McCarthy's referring, there, to the homeland security secretary. And the White House later clarified that Trump's idea of a clean bill here would include border security and changes to legal immigration.

INSKEEP: So no magical agreement.

HORSLEY: That's right. And, you know, for all the drama surrounding this made-for-TV moment, I'm not sure it really moved the ball very much. You know, Republicans still want concessions on immigration in exchange for a DACA fix. Democrats are trying to figure out what they can live with. They are very reluctant to bankroll Trump's border wall, especially to the tune of $18 billion, which is what the Homeland Security Department has asked for. Trump is adamant he can build a wall for a lot less than that.

INSKEEP: Just got a couple of seconds here. Let's listen to Donald Trump's - President Trump's bottom line in this meeting.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: My positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people in this room. I know most of the people on both sides, have a lot of respect for the people on both sides. And my - what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with.

INSKEEP: Scott, what do you make of that?

HORSLEY: Well, so the fate of the DREAMers, the wall and the shape of future immigration flows, it's all up to Congress.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley, thanks.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.