In a statement released on the heels of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that the Trump administration will “rescind” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and thereby throw the lives of nearly one million people into uncertainly, President Trump called on Congress to act.
“The legislative branch, not the executive branch, writes these laws — that is the bedrock of our Constitutional system, which I took a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend,” Trump said. “I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to finally address all of these issues in a matter that puts the hardworking citizens of our country first.”
Trump’s statement doesn’t specify what sort of immigration bill he’d be willing to sign, but he’s previously vowed he would “show great heart” in dealing with DACA recipients. The vagueness of Trump’s statement raised the question of whether the president would be willing to sign a clean bill that simply codifies protections for the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients who were brought to the U.S. as children, and in many cases haven’t lived in any other country.
During a White House news briefing later Tuesday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to provide details about what sort of bill Trump is willing to sign. She repeatedly indicated that Trump views DACA recipients as a bargaining chip for his border wall and possibly other legislative goodies.
“The president is hoping to work with Congress on responsible immigration reform,” Sanders said. “We can’t just have one tweak to the immigration system, we need really big fixes and big reform in this process, and we’ve laid out the principles that we feel are important in that.”
A short time later, CNN’s Jim Acosta followed up by asking by asking, “It sounds like the president is saying and you’re saying that, ‘If we’re going to allow the DREAMers to stay in this country, we want a wall.’ Is that accurate?”
Sanders didn’t deny that it was.
“I don’t think that the president has been shy about the fact that he wants a wall and certainly that’s something that he feels is an important part of an immigration reform package,” she said.
In addition to pushing a border wall that border agents don’t think is necessary and that costs the equivalent of about 500 elementary schools, the Trump administration supports an immigration bill (the so-called Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy [RAISE] Act) that gives English speakers preferred status while sharply reducing legal immigration.
Immigration reform — something Congress has repeatedly failed to accomplish in recent years — now joins a packed list of issues that Congress hopes to address within a short window of time. That list also includes the federal budget, tax reform, the debt ceiling, and health care. Trump has so far failed to shepherd a single major initiative of his through the legislative branch.