The media’s coverage of Trump’s immigration meeting was an abomination

Misreporting comments from the White House isn't going to help DREAMers.

Donald Trump (L) presides over a meeting about immigration with Republican and Democrat members of Congress in the Cabinet Room at the White House January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC.  CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Donald Trump (L) presides over a meeting about immigration with Republican and Democrat members of Congress in the Cabinet Room at the White House January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A number of publications announced on Tuesday that President Trump had agreed to a clean immigration bill guaranteeing protections for a number of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. There’s only one problem: that didn’t actually happen.

During the closed-door portion of an extended meeting with congressional leaders, the president discussed protections for hundreds of thousands of young people covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The White House rescinded DACA in September of last year, arguing that the issue should be decided by Congress. In the months since, the program has emerged as a sticking point in budget negotiations, with several Democrats demanding protections for DACA recipients — also called DREAMers — and threatening a government shutdown.

The Trump administration has indicated that no DACA solution will come without concessions on the president’s long-floated border wall and other immigration issues, like the diversity visa lottery. During Tuesday’s meeting, Trump didn’t budge from that position — though he did appear to contradict himself multiple times.

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Calling for a “bill of love” while simultaneously demanding an end to “chain migration” and an increase in border security, Trump offered what appeared to be support for immigration reform efforts as well as the assertion that none would pass without hardline concessions.

“You folks are going to have to come up with a solution. And if you do, I will sign that solution,” the president told lawmakers, before doubling down. “A clean DACA bill to me is to take care of the 800,000 people. We take care of that, and we also take care of security. And then we can go to comprehensive [immigration reform] later on.”

A number of publications hailed Trump’s comments as evidence of a breakthrough. “In extraordinary public negotiation with Congress, Trump promises to sign DACA bill,” wrote USA Today.

“Trump, Congress reach deal to negotiate DACA, border security,” NBC News claimed.

The New York Times, The Hill, and other outlets issued similar proclamations.

Several immigration reporters and other commentators corrected the misreporting online, in addition to laying out the specifics of the meeting itself.

“‘Appears to endorse” should never be your headline,” Vox’s Dara Lind tweeted. “If it has to be parsed that closely, it’s not an endorsement in any meaningful sense. And with this president in particular, why would you assume his words mean something???”

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Buzzfeed’s David Mack linked to video footage of the meeting, noting Trump’s initial agreement with a clean DACA bill proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), before Republicans clarified her comments.

“Here’s the incredible moment where Trump initially agrees to Feinstein’s suggestion that they do a clean DACA bill, before being corrected by Republicans about what she was actually suggesting,” Mack wrote.

“Think POTUS was confused, not for clean bill,” MSNBC political reporter Benjy Sarlin wrote, linking to similar video footage.

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The confusion over Trump’s comments has done little to clarify the White House’s stance on clean immigration reform, especially with regards to DREAMers. It has also buried a rapidly-approaching reality: with the deadline to pass a budget looming, lawmakers have only a little over a week to either reach an agreement on protections for DACA recipients or approve yet another funding extension. That leaves hundreds of thousands of young U.S. residents in a state of limbo — something they’ve already experienced for far too long.