WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pushed back Thursday morning against claims by top congressional Democrats that a deal has been reached over legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants and that a border-security package would not include a wall along the US-Mexico border.
“No deal was made last night on DACA,” Trump tweeted. “Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”
Late Wednesday, Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi said they had “agreed to enshrine the protections of (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides” following a dinner at the White House.
But Trump also refuted that specific assertion by the Democratic leaders about a border wall, tweeting on Thursday, “The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.”
Trump also defended on Twitter the undocumented immigrants protected under DACA, calling them “good, educated and accomplished young people” who “have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own.”
If a deal on some immigration and border issues happens, it would be the second major agreement between Trump, Schumer and Pelosi this month following their pact last week to raise the debt ceiling and extend government funding into December that left the GOP and some of Trump’s closest allies flabbergasted.
DACA had protected nearly 800,000 individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children from deportation. The Trump administration announced last week it would give Congress six months to pass legislation preserving those provisions before the program was terminated.
The bipartisan DREAM Act — a more comprehensive immigration bill that was proposed years ago but never passed — would be part of the arrangement, a person briefed on the meeting said.
A White House official said in a statement Wednesday that the topics discussed at the dinner included tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure and trade.
“This is a positive step toward the President’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans,” the statement said. “The administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle.”
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short confirmed that the President and Democrats agreed to work to find a legislative fix for DACA, but he called Democrats’ claim of a deal that would exclude wall funding “intentionally misleading.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders immediately pushed back on the idea the wall would be dropped.
“While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday.
Schumer’s communications director Matt House retweeted Sanders’ statement, then added that Trump had indeed agreed to leaving the border wall out of the equation — at least for this round.
Schumer and Pelosi’s statement on Wednesday quickly sent shockwaves through Trump’s conservative base, as his hardline stance on immigration was a core tenet of his campaign.
“Unbelievable! Amnesty is a pardon for immigration law breakers coupled with the reward of the objective of their crime,” tweeted Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham tweeted that “Dems’ “Border security” pledge is MEANINGLESS.” Staunch Trump ally Sean Hannity added, “Weak R’s have betrayed voters. @POTUS needs to stay the course and keep his promises or it’s over! Pelosi and Schumer can never be trusted.”
And Breitbart News, run by Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, headlined news of the alleged deal Wednesday with “Amnesty Don.”
Amid the criticism Wednesday night, Trump weighed in on tax reform and his former election rival, Hillary Clinton, waiting to respond to the reaction until Thursday morning.
GOP leaders absent from dinner
Making a deal that finds a way to keep the individuals who benefit under DACA in the United States shows the challenge of striking bipartisan deals in Washington.
Congressional Republican leaders were absent from Wednesday’s dinner, which featured Chinese food and chocolate pie for dessert, sources said, and it was not immediately clear how they would handle such legislation on Capitol Hill.
The dinner took place the same day House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Democratic leadership and representatives from groups in the Capitol.
“It’s the beginning of a listening that the President asked us to do,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got a broken immigration system we’ve got to fix. It was the beginning of a discussion where we were listening to concerns.”