WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump ruled out on Thursday allowing Congress to include any legislation to provide a solution for so-called “DREAMers” in the spending bill this year, a stance that could spark a battle with Democratic lawmakers or even a government shutdown due to lack of funds.
Trump took the position in a White House meeting with seven Republican senators, according to what the lawmakers said upon emerging from the get-together.
“The president made it very clear that he doesn’t want to see any DACA legislation as part of a year-end package,” said Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue, who was at the meeting, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“We definitely ruled out putting any kind of DACA package on the omnibus bill, end of story,” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton told reporters.
In September, Trump announced that he was ending the DACA program, implemented in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama, which shielded some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country by their parents as children, known as DREAMers.
Trump, however, gave Congress six months – until March 5, 2018, to find a legislative solution for the situation of the young immigrants.
But the Democratic opposition in Congress wants a law guaranteeing protection for the DREAMers – that is, ensuring that they cannot be deported now that DACA has been cancelled – before Dec. 31, and some Democratic senators – like Kamala Harris and Ben Cardin – have pushed the idea of including the measure in the budget bill that Congress must approve in December to keep the government solvent.
The Democrats, who hold 48 of the seats in the Senate, are using the threat of leaving the government without operating cash, thus causing at least a partial government shutdown, to pressure the Republican majority and get a beneficial replacement for DACA approved.
Trump did not publicly mention at the White House meeting on Thursday the ongoing conversations about the budget, telling journalists only that he wanted Congress to end the Diversity Visa Lottery and so-called “chain migration” whereby immigrants may bring in other relatives from abroad.
He did say, however, that there would be an announcement on the subject very soon.
But the senators who met with Trump insisted that the president is in agreement with them that the DACA issue must not be included on the budget bill “under any circumstances,” according to Cotton.
If Trump and Republican leaders maintain their stance, and Democrats insist on approving a measure before year-end, it will be very difficult to achieve a budget agreement before Dec. 8, when the temporary financing measure that is currently supplying funds for government operations expires.
Trump wants the legislation that will replace DACA to include measures to strengthen border security, limit the granting of visas to a merit-based system and create a point-system whereby immigrants may obtain permanent residence in the US.