In an interview with the New York Times and a Friday morning tweet, President Trump said that any deal that would grant legal status to immigrants brought to the United States as children needed to include funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Look, I wouldn’t do a DACA plan without a wall,” Trump said to the Times, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that he has set to expire next year. “We need it. We see the drugs pouring into the country, we need the wall.”
He reiterated that point in his tweet on Friday morning, adding that a DACA deal needed to end “chain migration,” the policy that allows naturalized immigrants to petition for relatives to come to the United States. In the Times interview, Trump had mentioned the policy — ending it is a White House priority — but had not directly tied it to the DACA deal.
Democrats, whiplashed for months by the president’s changing stances on DACA, reacted to the new positions by looking forward to next week’s negotiations with Republican congressional leaders and the White House.
“We’re not going to negotiate through the press and look forward to a serious negotiation at Wednesday’s meeting when we come back,” said Drew Hammill, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s press secretary.
Funding for a border wall, a modified Trump campaign promise, has found little support in the Republican-controlled Congress. During the campaign, candidate Trump repeatedly said that Mexico would “pay for the wall.” Since January, House Republicans have instead proposed paying for the wall up front, and moved legislation through the Homeland Security Committee that would devote $10 billion to wall construction. In an earlier statement on DACA, the president said that border wall funding and an end to chain migration needed to be discussed as part of any deal.
“Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end,” Trump said in October.
Democrats remain resolutely opposed to wall funding, and many Republicans favor funding for “border security” that would not be earmarked for an actual wall. Polling this year has found low public support for the wall concept; in August, a Fox News poll found barely 3 in 10 Americans supportive of the idea, and about as many convinced that Mexico could be made to pay for it. The president, by citing a year-long drop in illegal border crossings, has also given some breathing room to moderate Republicans who see security funding, not a wall, as a reasonable compromise.
Ed O’Keefe contributed to this story.