WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Saturday suggested a compromise for fully reopening the government that would temporarily protect some immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally years ago as children, if Democrats back his proposed border wall.
Congressional Democrats, who also floated proposals in the House toward a deal to end the 29-day impasse, rejected Trump’s tradeoff as tentative reports about it filtered out before his televised announcement Saturday afternoon from the White House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a statement, said “his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives. It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter.”
In particular, she noted, the protections for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and some refugees would be temporary.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democratic leader, echoed Pelosi, and both leaders reiterated the party’s insistence that the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., must fund and reopen the government before any negotiations on border security funding.
Trump’s proposal and the Democrats’ response are aimed at resolving the current federal funding impasse over Trump’s long-sought wall and reopening the partially closed government after nearly a month in which 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed without pay, even as more than half have been required to work to provide essential services.
Both sides were eager to look as if they were working to end the impasse — “I am here to break the logjam,” Trump said.
“Everybody knows that walls work,” Trump said earlier Saturday, emphasizing the main sticking point on the nearly month-old stalemate: his demand for $5.7 billion to build a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats are dead-set against it, but he has refused to approve funding for about a quarter of the government unless they acquiesce, precipitating the partial shutdown that began Dec. 22.
According to an administration official, Trump is set to propose a legislative compromise that would include his full wall-funding request in exchange for backing a bill known as the Bridge Act that would extend protections from deportation for those covered under President Barack Obama’s DACA program. Trump ordered an end to the program in 2017 but federal courts have mostly blocked him.
The protections from deportation would be for three years, and Trump would not propose any path to citizenship, as most Democrats favor.
Democrats, who have refused to agree to more than $1.3 billion for border security measures, and not for a wall, indicated that the president’s proposal would go nowhere. With current DACA beneficiaries protected by the courts into at least 2020, pending a Supreme Court review, the president’s temporary proposal is even less enticing to immigrant advocates.
A senior House Democratic aide noted that Democrats were not consulted about the proposal. “This is not a compromise as it includes the same wasteful, ineffective $5.7-billion wall demand that shut down the government in the first place,” the aide said. “This cannot pass the House or Senate.”
House Democrats are planning to vote next week on funding bills for the closed agencies that would include roughly $1 billion for additional border security improvements, Pelosi confirmed.
That additional money, which would amount to an increase of $328 million over last year’s funding, would be allocated not for a wall, but rather to improve infrastructure at ports of entry and to pay for additional immigration judges to process asylum cases at the border, the official confirmed. Most drugs and asylum-seekers come through the official entry points, according to the government, and not across the border expanse where the president wants a wall.
The latest developments follow days of escalating skirmishes.
After Pelosi told the president Wednesday that he would need to postpone or cancel his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress because of security concerns, given limited resources during the shutdown at the Secret Service and Homeland Security Department, Trump responded Thursday by canceling Pelosi’s planned weekend trip to visit troops in Afghanistan.
“It’s not personal for me,” Trump said Saturday morning. Pelosi is “being controlled by the radical left,” he said.
“I think that’s a very bad thing for her. It’s a very bad thing for the Democrats,” he said on the South Lawn before departing for Dover Air Force Base to meet with the families of four Americans, including two service members, killed last week in an attack in Syria.
Continuing to depict the situation along the border as a crisis that demands a federal response, though illegal entries continue their two-decade decline, Trump referred to another caravan of Central American migrants heading north through Mexico.
“Caravans are coming up. They have a big one coming up,” he said. “I’m disappointed Mexico is not stopping them.
“If we had a wall, we wouldn’t have a problem. But we don’t. We have too many open areas.”
Yet migrants in previous caravans have sought to enter legally at checkpoints to seek asylum. Inexplicably, Trump pointed to the city of San Antonio, which is not surrounded by a wall and is about 150 miles from the border at its closest point, as proof of his argument.
“You look at San Antonio, you look at so many different places,” he said. “They go from one of the most unsafe cities in the country to one of the safest cities, immediately.”
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Trump also claimed once again that his administration has made “tremendous progress that has not been reported” in denuclearization talks with North Korea. He reconfirmed plans for a second summit with its leader, Kim Jong Un, in late February and said he has decided on a location but declined to divulge it.
Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech in Washington that North Korea has still not taken “concrete steps” to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, and U.S. intelligence agencies say the country is continuing to expand it.
Trump also said he was close to a trade deal with China, something he has been teasing for months.
He thanked special counsel Robert Mueller, usually a target of his critical Twitter posts, for his office’s rare public statement Friday night disputing a report by BuzzFeed, which claimed that prosecutors had evidence that Trump told his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
“I appreciate the special counsel coming out with a statement last night,” Trump said. “I think it was very appropriate they did so.”
The president also attacked BuzzFeed. “It was a disgrace to our country,” he said of the report. “It was a disgrace to journalism. I think it’s going to take a long time for the mainstream media to regain its credibility.”