WASHINGTON — The top House and Senate Democrats said Wednesday they had reached agreement with President Donald Trump to protect thousands of younger immigrants from deportation and fund some border security enhancements — not including Trump’s long-sought border wall.
The deal announced by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi following a White House dinner would enshrine protections for the nearly 800,000 immigrants brought illegally to this country as kids who had benefited from former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The program provided temporary work permits and protection from deportation.
Trump ended the program earlier this month and had given Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the statuses of the so-called “Dreamers” begin to expire.
“We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.
It was the second time in two weeks that Trump cut out Republicans to reach a deal with Pelosi and Schumer. A person briefed on the meeting, who demanded anonymity to discuss it, said the deal specifies bipartisan legislation called the DREAM Act that provides eventual citizenship for the young immigrants.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said in its own statement that the president had had “a constructive working dinner” with Schumer, Pelosi and administration officials “to discuss policy and legislative priorities,” including DACA.
“This is a positive step toward the President’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans,” the White House said.
During a White House meeting with moderate House members from both parties earlier Wednesday, Trump had urged lawmakers to come up with a bipartisan solution.
“We don’t want to forget DACA,” Trump told the members at the meeting. “We want to see if we can do something in a bipartisan fashion so that we can solve the DACA problem and other immigration problems.”
The apparent deal is the latest example of Trump’s sudden pivot to bipartisanship after months of railing against Democrats as “obstructionist.” He has urged them to join him in overhauling the nation’s tax code, among other priorities.
Trump, who was deeply disappointed by Republicans’ failure to pass a health care overhaul, infuriated many in his party when he reached a three-month deal with Schumer and Pelosi to raise the debt ceiling, keep the government running and speed relief to states affected by recent hurricanes.
“More and more we’re trying to work things out together,” Trump explained Wednesday, calling the development a “positive thing” for both parties.
“If you look at some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done on a bipartisan manner. And so that’s what we’re going to give a shot,” he said.
The “Kumbaya” moment now appears to extend to the thorny issue of immigration, which has been vexing lawmakers for years. Funding for Trump’s promised wall had been thought to be a major point of contention between Republicans and Democrats as they attempted to forge a deal.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier Wednesday that Trump was “committed to the wall. It doesn’t have to be tied to DACA but its important and he will get it done.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who also sat down with Pelosi to talk immigration Wednesday, said during an AP Newsmaker interview that deporting the so-called “Dreamers” was “not in our nation’s interest,” and said the president had “made the right call.”
“I wanted him to give us time. I didn’t want this to be rescinded on Day One and create chaos,” Ryan said, arguing the time would allow Congress to “come up with the right kind of consensus and compromise to fix this problem.”
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.