U.S. wants ruling on ‘Dreamers’ in Supreme Court’s current term

A woman leaves the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York, August 15, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday it will ask the Supreme Court to intervene if an appellate court has not ruled by Oct. 31 on whether the Trump administration can end protections for “Dreamers” who are young immigrants in the country illegally.

In a letter to the clerk of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, a Justice Department lawyer said the action would be necessary to give the litigation a chance of being heard by the Supreme Court in its current term, which ends in June.

The case at issue was brought by the University of California and others challenging the administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program was adopted by the Obama administration in 2012 and has allowed 700,000 young immigrants to remain and work in the United States, although they do not have legal status.

A federal district court in California issued a nationwide injunction requiring the government to continue the program and process renewals for existing participants until a final ruling was made in the case.

The government maintains DACA is not legal and has sanctioned “an ongoing violation of federal law” by its participants. It appealed the injunction to the 9th Circuit, which heard arguments in the case on May 15 but has not yet issued a ruling.

“If this court’s decision is not issued promptly,” said the letter, “the Supreme Court would not be able to review the decision in the ordinary course until next term at the earliest.

It would be unusual for the Supreme Court to weigh in before the appeals court has ruled. In February, the Supreme Court declined to grant a previous petition asking it to review the lower court’s decision before the appeals court ruled.

The administration’s decision to end DACA sparked an outcry from immigration advocates, business groups, colleges and religious leaders, and was quickly challenged in the courts.

Other cases both challenging and supporting the government’s decision to end DACA are also working their way through the courts, making it almost certain that the Supreme Court will eventually decide the issue, unless Congress acts first.

Earlier this year, Congress tried and failed to pass legislation legalizing Dreamers.

Lawmakers may get another shot at the issue after the Nov. 6 congressional election. Congress will have to consider spending proposals, and some leading lawmakers have suggested that funds for a wall along the border with Mexico could be passed in conjunction with wider immigration reform.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Push for ‘Dreamer’ immigration bill gains steam in U.S. House of Representatives

Activists and DACA recipients march up Broadway during the start of their 'Walk to Stay Home,' a five-day 250-mile walk from New York to Washington D.C., to demand that Congress pass a Clean Dream Act, in Manhattan, New York, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday urged Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule debate on bills to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation, in a move aimed at reviving a push that sputtered in the Senate in February.

Backers said they had 240 House members on board so far pushing for debate of four different bills to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Republican President Donald Trump ended on March 5.

Under the House members’ plan, the measure with the most votes would win and be sent to the Senate. November’s congressional elections could contribute to an already difficult path, however.

The bill many lawmakers think is most popular was written by Republican Will Hurd and Democrat Peter Aguilar. It would protect “Dreamer” immigrants from deportation and strengthen border security, although not with a Southwest border wall Trump wants.

DACA, established in 2012 by Democratic then-President Barack Obama, protected illegal immigrants brought into the United States by their parents when they were children. Around 800,000 “Dreamers” have participated.

With Trump’s action, their legal status is in limbo pending the outcome of court battles.

Trump has urged Congress to write legislation giving these immigrants permanent protections, but he has failed to reach a compromise with Congress.

“It is time to have a full debate for the American public and have the entire country decide what border security should look like, what a permanent fix for Dreamers should look like,” said Republican Representative Jeff Denham, who represents a central California district with a large Hispanic population.

In 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton beat Trump in his district, leading to speculation that Denham, like Republicans in similar areas, could face a tough re-election.

At least 218 votes are needed in the 435-member House to pass legislation. With five vacancies, slightly fewer are necessary.

But there are difficulties, even with the 240 votes supporting this latest immigration push.

Only 50 of the House’s 237 Republicans are behind the effort so far, with nearly all 190 Democrats on board.

That presents political problems for Ryan and his leadership team, which bridles at passing legislation not backed by a majority of fellow Republicans.

Representative Linda Sanchez, a member of House Democratic leadership, told reporters that a bill to take care of Dreamers could pass the House if Ryan allowed it, but that opponents were blocking a debate.

“One hundred of the most conservative members in that (Republican) caucus are making policy for the rest of the United States,” Sanchez said.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Trump signs budget deal after raising government shutdown threat

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks, as he stands next to Congress' $1.3 trillion spending bill, during a signing ceremony, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Steve Holland and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump signed Congress’ newly passed $1.3 trillion budget bill on Friday, ending several hours of confusion spurred by a tweeted veto threat that raised the specter of a government shutdown.

Trump said he had signed the bill, despite his qualms on some issues, because a $60 billion increase in military spending had convinced him it was a worthwhile compromise.

“But I say to Congress I will never sign another bill like this again,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to do it again.”

White House and Capitol Hill aides had been left scrambling earlier in the day after Trump criticized the six-month spending bill, despite prior assurances from the administration that he would sign it ahead of a looming midnight deadline.

“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,” Trump wrote on Twitter at 9 a.m. EDT.

But by early afternoon, he appeared before reporters in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House to announce he had signed the measure.

“There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill,” he said, patting the more than 2,000 pages of the legislation stacked on a purple box beside him.

It was unclear how seriously Republican leaders took Trump’s shutdown threat. Neither Speaker Paul Ryan nor Senate Leader Mitch McConnell commented publicly on it.

Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Senate and House of Representatives had already left Washington for a scheduled two-week spring recess, and Trump himself was scheduled on Friday to fly to Florida for a weekend at his private resort.

IMMIGRATION CONCERNS

Trump has been frustrated that Congress has not turned over funding to make good on his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill includes $1.6 billion for six month’s of work on the project but he had sought $25 billion for it.

Trump also has been at odds with Democrats in Congress over the fate of Dreamer immigrants – those brought to the United States illegally when they were children.

Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that gives work permits to the Dreamers and protects them from deportation. The decision is currently tied up in court cases.

He offered to extend the protections, tied to a sweeping set of changes to immigration laws, but subsequently rejected bipartisan offers from lawmakers.

As the six-month spending budget deal was coming together, there had been reports Trump had balked at the bill and had to be persuaded by Ryan to support it.

The conservative wing of Trump’s party had panned the bill because of its spending increases and some deficit hawks cheered Trump’s Friday morning threat to veto it.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Steve Holland; additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Amanda Becker, Susan Heavey and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott)

Trump threatens to veto spending bill over DACA, border wall

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he was considering vetoing Congress’ $1.3 trillion spending bill over immigration issues, including full funding for his proposed border wall and young ‘Dreamer’ immigrants.

“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Justin Mitchell; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Senate Republican leader embraces Trump immigration plan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans on Tuesday turned up the heat on Democrats seeking protections for young “Dreamer” immigrants as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell embraced President Donald Trump’s demands for broad changes to the country’s immigration policies.

In announcing his support for legislation that would help immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children, McConnell also threw his weight behind building a U.S.-Mexico border wall and sharply curtailing visas for the parents and siblings of immigrants living in the United States legally.

“This proposal has my support and during this week of fair debate I believe it deserves support of every senator who’s ready to move beyond making points and actually making a law,” McConnell, a Republican, said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Even some Republicans, however, have expressed skepticism that such broad, fundamental changes in U.S. immigration law can pass the Senate by the Thursday deadline that No. 2 Republican Senator John Cornyn urged late on Monday.

Also on Monday, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who is leading the charge for Dreamers, told reporters that he thought early Senate votes on immigration legislation would begin with “expansive” measures that will fail to win the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles.

Then, Durbin said, senators will be forced to move “toward the center with a moderate approach.”

But at least for now, Republicans were holding a tough line. Republican Senator Tom Cotton, interviewed on Fox News, said Trump’s immigration plan “is not an opening bid for negotiations. It’s a best and final offer.”

That ran counter to statements Trump has made in recent days, including early on Tuesday in which he said in a tweet that “Negotiations on DACA have begun.”

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Democratic former President Barack Obama initiated in 2012 and which has allowed around 700,000 Dreamers to legally study and work in the United States temporarily. Last September, Trump announced he would terminate the program on March 5.

During testimony before the Senate Budget Committee on Monday, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said he thought that a deal on immigration legislation will be reached “and that we have full funding on the (border) wall” of $18 billion over two years.

Durbin and other Democrats have talked of the possibility of a bill that provides for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and additional border security, which could include the construction of more border fencing and other high-tech tools to deter illegal immigrants.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan, additional reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump signs deal to end brief government shutdown, increase U.S. spending

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walk to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., February 7, 2018.

By David Morgan, Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress ended a brief government shutdown on Friday by reaching a wide-ranging deal that is expected to push budget deficits into the $1 trillion-a-year zone.

The bill passed by a wide margin in the Senate and survived a rebellion of 67 conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives thanks to the support of some Democrats. Those conservatives were mainly angry about non-military spending increases.

President Donald Trump signed the measure into law on Friday morning, ending a government shutdown that began just after midnight, when Congress was still debating the budget deal.

It was the second shutdown this year under the Republican-controlled Congress and Trump, who played little role in attempts by party leaders this week to end months of fiscal squabbling.

The deal is the fifth temporary government funding measure for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and replenishes federal coffers until March 23, giving lawmakers more time to write a full-year budget.

It also extends the U.S. government’s borrowing authority until March 2019, sparing Washington politicians difficult votes on debt and deficits until after mid-term congressional elections in November.

Once known as the party of fiscal conservatives, the Republicans and Trump are now quickly expanding the U.S. budget deficit and its $20 trillion national debt. Their sweeping tax overhaul bill approved in December will add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.

Nearly $300 billion in new spending included in the bill approved on Friday will ensure the annual budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion in 2019, said the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a private fiscal policy watchdog group in Washington.

Friday’s budget deal allows for $165 billion in additional defense spending over two years that will help Trump deliver on his promise to rebuild the military.

That won over many Republicans but some were still furious over the $131 billion extra made available for non-military spending, including health and infrastructure.

None of the added spending will be offset by budget savings elsewhere or revenue increases, relying instead on government borrowing. There also is no offset reduction for nearly $90 billion in new disaster aid for U.S. states and territories ravaged by hurricanes or wildfires.

PRESSURE ON MARKETS

The brief shutdown in Washington came at a sensitive time for financial markets. Stocks plunged on Thursday on heavy volume, throwing off course a nearly nine-year bull run. The S&P 500 slumped 3.8 percent.

Markets barely flinched at the last shutdown in January, but that was before a dizzying selloff that started on Jan. 30 amid concerns about inflation and higher interest rates.

Republican Senator Rand Paul, objecting to deficit spending in the bill, engaged in a nine-hour, on-again, off-again protest and floor speech late on Thursday. He had harsh words for his own party.

“Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits,” he said. “I can’t … in good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits. Really who is to blame? Both parties.”

His dissent forced the brief government shutdown, underscoring the persistent inability of Congress and Trump to deal efficiently with Washington’s most basic fiscal obligation of keeping the government open.

“Republican majorities in the House and Senate have turned the process into an embarrassing spectacle, running from one crisis directly into the next,” said Democratic Representative Nita Lowey prior to the House vote.

Republican Representative Kristi Noem told Reuters she voted against the bill because it increases non-defense spending and raises the federal debt ceiling.

“To increase domestic spending and raise the debt ceiling was coupling two very bad policy decisions and with no reforms tied to it. It was very disappointing,” she said.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others in her party had opposed the bill because Republican House leaders would not guarantee her a debate later on steps to protect about 700,000 “Dreamer” immigrants from deportation.

These young people were brought illegally to the country as children years ago, mostly from Mexico. Trump said in September he would end by March 5 former Democratic President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects the Dreamers from deportation.

Trump urged Congress to act before then. Senate Republicans have pledged to hold a separate immigration debate this month.

House Speaker Paul Ryan had not offered Pelosi an equivalent promise in the House, although he said in a speech before the vote on Friday that he would push ahead for a deal.

“My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment,” he said. “We will solve this DACA problem.”

But Pelosi said Ryan’s words fell short, accusing him of not having “the courage to lift the shadow of fear from the lives of” Dreamers who face the prospect of deportation.

Minutes after midnight, when the short-lived shutdown began, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sent a notice to millions of federal employees telling them to check with their agencies on whether they should report to work on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Makini Brice, Katanga Johnson and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Bill Trott)

Trump urges bipartisan compromises but continues hard line immigration policies

U.S. President Donald J. Trump (C) stands at the podium as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) look on during his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018.

By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump urged lawmakers on Tuesday to work toward bipartisan compromises, but pushed a hard line on immigration, insisting on a border wall and other concessions from Democrats as part of any deal to protect the children of illegal immigrants.

Trump, in his first State of the Union speech, gave no ground on the contentious issue of whether to shield young immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation.

Aiming to keep conservative supporters happy as he looks to November congressional elections, Trump stood by a set of principles opposed by Democrats, including the border wall with Mexico and new restrictions on how many family members that legal immigrants can bring into the United States.

“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve,” Trump said in his address.

Trump used the hour-and-20-minute speech, given annually by presidents to Congress, to try to overcome doubts about his presidency at a time when he is battling a probe into his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia and suffering low job approval ratings.

Trump made no mention of the federal probe into whether his campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election, a controversy that is dogging his presidency. Trump has denied collusion and has called the probe a “witch hunt.”

The speech was short on details about Trump’s policy proposals.

But his sober, measured approach was welcomed by the public. A CNN/SSRS snap poll said 48 percent of those surveyed had a “very positive” response to the speech and 22 percent “somewhat positive.”

There was little sign of unity inside the House of Representatives chamber where Trump spoke. Republican lawmakers cheered wildly at the president’s applause lines. Democrats often sat in their seats silently and many booed when he laid out his immigration proposals.

DENOUNCES NORTH KOREAN LEADERSHIP

Turning to foreign policy late in the speech, Trump denounced the “depraved character” of North Korea’s leadership and said Pyongyang’s “reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland.”

“We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening,” he said. In a surprise moment, he singled out a North Korea defector in the crowd, Ji Seong-ho, as an example of what he called the reclusive country’s brutal nature.

Trump also said he had signed an order to keep open the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for foreign terrorism suspects. Former Democratic President Barack Obama had vowed to close the prison, which has been condemned by human rights groups, but was unable to shut it down completely.

Whether Trump would follow through on his appeal for bipartisan harmony was far from clear. Trump’s past attempts at a unifying message have been undermined by his later rancorous tweets and divisive statements that angered Democrats and frequently annoyed lawmakers in his own Republican Party.

The unity plea will first be put to the test in his drive for a compromise on protecting 1.8 million Dreamers – people brought illegally to the country as children – who face a March 5 deadline on whether they can begin to be deported.

Republicans welcomed Trump’s immigration proposals, with U.S. Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma saying Trump tried to strike a middle ground.

“My Democratic colleagues can say he didn’t move enough, but you can’t deny he moved a lot. There are people in his core base who think he has moved way too far.”

But Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and the longest-serving senator, said Trump’s words about unity, after a year of “divisive actions, petty insults and disgraceful race-baiting … ring hollow.”

Trump said he was “extending an open hand” for an immigration deal and that he would provide Dreamers a pathway to citizenship over 10 to 12 years in exchange for funding the border wall, which he promised during his campaign, and restrictions on legal immigration.

He called his plan a “down-the-middle compromise,” but some Democrats hissed when he said he wanted to rein in “chain migration,” the ability of legal immigrants to bring a wide-ranging number of family members into the country.

“Let’s come together, set politics aside and finally get the job done,” Trump said.

INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

Trump took credit for U.S. economic gains including a soaring stock market and a low jobless rate. He boasted about the economic growth he believes will result from tax cuts Republicans pushed through Congress late last year.

“This is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream,” he said.

Trump said he would like a compromise over a plan to rebuild aging roads, bridges and other infrastructure. He said he wanted legislation to generate at least $1.5 trillion through a combination of federal, state and local spending as well as private-sector contributions.

Market reaction was muted, with S&P 500 futures drifting higher, but investors saying there was little new for Wall Street in the speech.

“Futures lifted a bit because it was not a negative speech. He was calm. He celebrated America. He avoided his own failures,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors in Chicago.

While Trump spoke of compromise, his speech provided some reminders of partisan battles over the past year.

He singled out a speech guest, 12-year-old Preston Sharp, for leading an effort to put American flags on the graves of 40,000 veterans, saying the initiative was “why we proudly stand for the national anthem.”

His criticism of National Football League players who refused to stand for the anthem in protest against police shootings of minorities and racial disparities in the justice system, dominated headlines last autumn.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, Roberta Rampton, Makini Brice, Eric Beech and Eric Walsh; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Trump says Republicans will accept citizenship for ‘Dreamers’

A woman protests to call for a new DREAM Act to replace DACA in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 17, 2018.

By Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he would be willing to shift his stance on immigration to push through a deal that protects illegal immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation and offer them citizenship.

In an interview with CNBC broadcast on Friday, Trump also said Republican Senators Tom Cotton, John Cornyn and David Perdue and Representative Bob Goodlatte, who have all taken tough stances on immigration, could agree to offer citizenship within 10 to 12 years to so-called “Dreamers.”

“They’ve really shifted a lot, and I think they’re willing to shift more, and so am I,” the Republican president told CNBC in an interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos. “We’re going to see. If we make the right deal, I think they will.”

“These are people that have very strong opinions on DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) and on immigration generally. And I happen to think they’re largely right,” said Trump.

It was unclear whether Trump’s stated willingness to shift more on immigration would resonate with Democrats, who along with some Republicans, have accused Trump of being an unreliable negotiating partner, too willing to change his stance under pressure from conservatives in his party.

Senior White House officials outlined an immigration plan on Thursday, hours after the Trump interview was taped, that would offer a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million of the illegal immigrants. The proposal includes measures to curb some legal immigration programs and provide a border wall with Mexico.

The White House offered to more than double the number of Dreamers, who would be protected from deportation, describing it as a major concession aimed at attracting enough votes for an immigration deal from Democrats.

To appeal to Republicans, the plan would slash family sponsorship of immigrants, tighten border security and provide billions of dollars in funding for a border wall with Mexico, one of Trump’s signature campaign promises.

Senators Cotton and Perdue on Thursday praised the framework. But Representative Jim Jordan, a member of the House of Representatives conservative Freedom Caucus, said on Friday the focus of any plan must prioritize border security issues over DACA. “I have some concerns frankly. It’s all about where the focus is,” he told Fox News.

The deal has been panned by both pro-immigration groups, who called the proposal a bad trade-off, and conservative groups, who criticized the expansion of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Congressional Democrats also oppose the measure. “The president should not be releasing a framework that is a nonstarter like this one,” Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Trump seeks $25 billion for border wall, offers ‘Dreamer’ citizenship

People protest for immigration reform for DACA recipients and a new Dream Act, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

By Roberta Rampton and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday previewed his outline for an immigration bill that he will promote next week, saying he wants $25 billion to build a border wall and is open to granting citizenship to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Trump said he was optimistic he could come to an agreement with both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress that would appeal to hardliners seeking tougher rules for immigrants while also preventing the roughly 700,000 “Dreamers” from being deported.

“Tell them not to be concerned, ok? Tell them not to worry. We’re going to solve the problem. It’s up to the Democrats, but they (the Dreamers) should not be concerned,” Trump told reporters during an impromptu question-and-answer session at the White House.

Trump campaigned for president in 2016 promising tougher rules for immigration. In September, he announced he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, effective in March – unless Congress came up with a new law.

The program currently protects about 700,000 people, mostly Hispanic young adults, from deportation and provides them work permits.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the lead lawmakers in the immigration negotiations, said Trump’s comments signaled a major breakthrough.

“President Trump’s support for a pathway to citizenship will help us get strong border security measures as we work to modernize a broken immigration system,” Graham said in a statement. “With this strong statement by President Trump, I have never felt better about our chances of finding a solution on immigration.”

“COULD GO EITHER WAY”

Graham was part of a bipartisan group of three dozen senators who met on Wednesday on Capitol Hill to discuss moving forward on immigration legislation.

After the meeting, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill expressed cautious optimism to reporters about Trump’s framework, saying “that could go either way,” when asked if it will be helpful to lawmakers.

Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, was slated to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a senior White House official said.

Trump so far has rejected bipartisan proposals to continue DACA, leading to the standoff between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate that resulted in a three-day government shutdown that ended on Monday.

Congress agreed to extend funding to Feb. 8, but Republicans promised to allow debate on the future of the young illegal immigrants. Senators began meeting to discuss their proposals on Wednesday.

The White House plans on Monday to unveil a framework for immigration legislation that it believes can pass muster with both parties. Trump will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night.

For immigration legislation to be enacted into law, the House of Representatives ultimately would have to pass a bill identical to whatever the Senate approves.

Trump said his proposal would include a request for $25 billion for the border wall, $5 billion for other border security programs, measures to curb family sponsorship of immigrants, and an overhaul of or end to the visa lottery system.

In exchange, he said he wanted to offer the Dreamers protection from deportation and an “incentive” of citizenship, perhaps in 10 to 12 years.

Addressing the status of the Dreamers’ parents, who brought them into America illegally, would be “tricky,” Trump said.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Makini Brice and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Leslie Adler)

Trump promises to ‘take the heat’ for broad immigration deal

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan

By Jeff Mason and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was ready to accept an onslaught of criticism if lawmakers tackle broad immigration reforms after an initial deal to help the young illegal immigrants known as Dreamers and build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump told lawmakers at the White House he would back a two-phased approach to overhauling U.S. immigration laws with the first step focused on protecting immigrants who were brought here as children from deportation along with funding for a wall and other restrictions that Democrats have opposed.

Once that is done, Trump said, he favors moving quickly to address even more contentious issues, including a possible pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants that is opposed by many Republicans and many of his supporters.

“If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care,” Trump told lawmakers about a broad immigration bill. “You are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform. And if you wanted to go that final step, I think you should do it.”

Trump campaigned for the White House in 2016 with a hard-line approach on illegal immigration, and many of his supporters consider potential citizenship for undocumented immigrants to be an unacceptable grant of amnesty.

Trump said on Tuesday he would sign a bill that gives legal status to the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, known as Dreamers, as long as the bill had the border security protections he has sought, including funding for a wall.

“Now, that doesn’t mean 2,000 miles of wall because you just don’t need that … because of mountains and rivers and lots of other things,” Trump said. “But we need a certain portion of that border to have the wall. If we don’t have it, you can never have security.”

Trump and his fellow Republicans, who control the U.S. Congress, have been unable to reach agreement with Democrats on a deal to resolve the status of an estimated 700,000 young immigrants whose protection from potential deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program ends in early March.

“A VERY PRODUCTIVE MEETING”

Under pressure from immigrant groups ahead of midterm congressional elections in November, Democrats are reluctant to give ground to Trump on the issue of the wall, his central promise from the 2016 presidential campaign.

But after the meeting, lawmakers from both parties said they would meet as early as Wednesday to continue negotiations on a deal covering DACA and border security, as well as a visa lottery program and “chain migration,” which could address the status of relatives of Dreamers who are still in the United States illegally.

“From that standpoint it was a very productive meeting,” said Senator David Perdue, a Republican. “We have a scope now.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters the broader bill with a path to citizenship was not a focus for now.

“We’re certainly open to talking about a number of other issues when it comes to immigration, but right now this administration is focused on those four things and that negotiation, and not a lot else at this front,” she said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who also was at the meeting, said negotiators in Congress still faced difficulties but it was important that Trump had shown he had “no animosity toward the Dream Act kids” and the “wall is not going to be 2,220 miles wide.”

PARTY DIFFERENCES ON BORDER SECURITY

The U.S. Congress has been trying and failing to pass a comprehensive immigration bill for more than a decade, most recently in 2013 when the Senate passed a bill that later died in the House of Representatives.

The latest immigration negotiations are part of a broader series of talks over issues ranging from funding the federal government through next September to renewing a children’s health insurance program and giving U.S. territories and states additional aid for rebuilding after last year’s hurricanes and wildfires.

Top congressional leaders did not attend the hour-long meeting. The guest list included lawmakers from both parties involved in the immigration debate, such as Graham and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.

A majority of those protected under DACA are from Mexico and Central America and have spent most of their lives in the United States, attending school and participating in society.

Trump put their fate in doubt in early September when he announced he was ending the DACA program created by former President Barack Obama, which allowed them to legally live and work in the United States temporarily.

Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, said a DACA bill could win support for passage even though there are differences between the parties over what constitutes necessary border security.

“Democrats are for security at the border,” Hoyer told Trump during the meeting. “There are obviously differences, however, Mr. President, on how you affect that.”

On Monday, Trump announced that he was ending immigration protections for about 200,000 El Salvadorans who have been living legally in the United States under the Temporary Protection Status program. Haitians and other groups have faced similar actions.

A congressional aide told Reuters that negotiators in Congress also have been talking about legislation that would expand TPS in return for ending a visa lottery program that Republicans want to terminate.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Steve Holland, Susan Heavey and Amanda Becker; Writing by John Whitesides and Jeff Mason; Editing by Leslie Adler)