WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he and lawmakers are close to a deal on protections for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, but stressed any such deal would need to include border security measures.
The Republican president met with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday evening to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a policy enacted by Democratic former President Barack Obama that protected so-called Dreamers from deportation and allowed them to stay and work in the United States.
“I think we’re fairly close (to a deal), but we have to get massive border security,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday.
Trump said last week he was ending the DACA program, but was allowing a six-window to give Congress time to act on the issue. He later said he might “revisit” the matter if lawmakers do not.
To gain the support from Democrats on the Dreamers, some 800,000 mostly Hispanic young adults, Trump appeared to have decided not to tie DACA legislation to funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico.
Trump made building such a wall a central piece of his 2016 election campaign, saying it would keep out illegal immigrants and drugs, but it has long been opposed by Democrats.
“The wall will come later,” Trump said. “The wall is going to be built, it’s going to be funded a little bit later.”
Trump has previously appeared conflicted over the fate of the Dreamers and on Thursday he indicated he did not want them deported.
“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” Trump wrote in one of a series of posts on Twitter.
The decision to not include funding for a wall in a DACA deal angered some of Trump’s staunch supporters.
“I don’t think it’s unclear to anybody what those campaign promises were but it looks to me like he’s preparing to keep Hillary Clinton’s campaign promise rather than his own,” Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King said on CNN, referring to Democratic presidential candidate Clinton.
After failing to notch up any major legislation since taking office in January, Trump has increasingly expressed frustration with his fellow Republicans who control both chambers of Congress. He has shown willingness in recent days to work with the opposition.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Wednesday night they came to an agreement with Trump about DACA at the White House dinner meeting.
The two said they agreed to quickly enact protections for the Dreamers, along with a package on border security that would not fund Trump’s wall project.
In addition to the Wednesday dinner, Trump has also met with bipartisan groups of U.S. lawmakers in recent days, and last week stunned Republican leaders by reaching a surprise deal with Schumer and Pelosi to fund the government through mid-December.
Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Makini Brice; Editing by Frances Kerry