WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will not necessarily insist on including funding for a border wall with Mexico in legislation to address protections for children brought to the United States illegally, a senior aide said on Tuesday.
White House legislative director Marc Short, speaking to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, said the administration will lay out its priorities for a fix for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the next couple of weeks.
While Trump remains committed to his campaign promise to build the wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, “whether or not that is specifically part of a DACA package or a different legislative package, I am not going to prejudge here today,” Short said.
Democrats welcomed the comments, saying they cleared away a major stumbling to legislation to help DACA recipients, known as Dreamers. Democrats have insisted they will not allow border funding to be part of any legislation and would likely have the votes in the Senate to block a provision to which they objected.
“That’s an important position because we cannot make a 2,200 mile (3,540 km) wall a condition for passing the Dream Act and we’ve been very clear from the start,” said Senator Dick Durbin, a senior Democrat who has been working for the past 16 years to legislate protections for the Dreamers.
Democrats are willing to work with the White House and congressional Republicans on other border security measures as part of the legislation, however, Durbin added.
Representative Steny Hoyer, a member of the Democratic House leadership, told reporters he wanted to see Congress take up a measure to protect Dreamers within weeks, not months. Democrats were willing to use any mechanism possible to reach a vote on the issue, he added.
Trump said last week he was ending an Obama-era program that protects from the deportation of immigrants brought illegally into the United States as children, but he gave U.S. lawmakers six months to act on the issue.
The move put the onus on Congress to address the nearly 800,000 Dreamers now facing uncertainty about their status in a country that for many is the only one they have known.
“I don’t want to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible,” Short said.
Short’s comments suggested Trump may want to put the politically thorny Dreamers issue behind him, even if it weakens his leverage on securing funding for a border wall.
Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Amanda Becker in Washington; Editing Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe