- Win McNamee/Getty Images
There’s a lot that’s unclear about President Donald Trump’s possible deal with Democratic leaders about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It centers on whether there’s a deal at all, what it means for Trump’s massive proposed border wall, and whether the Democrats were getting Trump to agree on DACA or the Dream Act. The confusion led to a wild day in Washington, DC.
There’s plenty of confusion over what went down at President Donald Trump’s Wednesday dinner with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – particularly as it relates to a possible agreement on how to handle young immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Current and former Republican Capitol Hill staffers told Business Insider they couldn’t speak to the merits of any potential agreement with so many variables still up in the air.
Mixed messages – particularly from the White House – have caused many to question what exactly the trio came to terms on regarding DACA, a program initiated by President Barack Obama that temporarily protects from deportation some 800,000 young immigrants who were brought into the US as children and are living in the country illegally. It also allows them to work legally in the US.
News of the possible agreements between Trump and the Democrats broke on Wednesday night after the dinner, which was first announced earlier in the day. The White House provided the first statement, saying the dinner was “constructive” and included conversations on “tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure, and trade.”
Shortly after, Schumer and Pelosi released a joint statement that called the dinner was “very productive” and said the conversation focused on DACA. They added that the trio “agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
Pandemonium broke out.
Republican Rep. Steve King, a far-right immigration hawk, called the reported deal “unbelievable!” He added that Trump’s support base would be “blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair.”
Conservatives quickly bashed the agreement. Many other Republicans were simply seeking clarity on what went down.
“Morn news says u made deal w Schumer on DACA/hv ur staff brief me” Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted at Trump, adding that he “undercut” the committee’s “effort 4 biparty agreement.”
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tried to calm some conservatives’ greatest fear following the initial Schumer-Pelosi statement: that the promise of a massive wall along the US-Mexico border was scrapped.
“While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to,” she tweeted.
But Democrats quickly insisted that the wording of their statement had been misconstrued.
“The President made clear he would continue pushing the wall, just not as part of this agreement,” Matt House, Schumer’s communications director, tweeted.
It only got murkier from there.
So was there a deal?
Trump began his Thursday by announcing that a deal had not been made regarding DACA. But moments later, he seemed to endorse the deal described by the Democratic leaders.
“No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote,” he tweeted, adding, “The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.”
“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” Trump said in the first of his next two tweets. “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”
The Democratic leaders quickly fired back in a statement, saying Trump’s tweets were “not inconsistent” with “the agreement” the three reached on Wednesday night.
“As we said last night, there was no final deal, but there was agreement on the following: ‘We agreed that the President would support enshrining DACA protections into law, and encourage the House and Senate to act,” Schumer and Pelosi said in the statement.
“What remains to be negotiated are the details of border security, with a mutual goal of finalizing all details as soon as possible,” they continued. “While both sides agreed that the wall would not be any part of this agreement, the President made clear he intends to pursue it at a later time, and we made clear we would continue to oppose it.”
The Democrats said that the discussed border-security proposal included “new technology, drones, air support, sensor equipment, rebuilding roads along the border” and existing congressional legislation.
Speaking to reporters during a press gaggle aboard Air Force One as he traveled to visit hurricane victims in Florida, Trump said lawmakers were “working on a plan” that was “subject to getting massive border controls.”
“People want to see that happen,” he said. “You have 800,000 young people, brought here, no fault of their own. So we’re working on a plan. We’ll see how it works out. We’re going to get massive border security as part of that. And I think something can happen. We’ll see what happens, but something will happen.”
He said he thought both Pelosi and Schumer were on board, adding that the trio was “fairly close” to such an arrangement.
Pointing to the statement from Schumer and Pelosi, Trump said the Democrats were not insisting that a deal had already been struck.
“There was no deal, and they didn’t say they had a deal,” he said. “In fact, they just put out a statement they didn’t say that at all.”
- Thomson Reuters
Schumer took the Senate floor at about the same time to attempt to clarify the whole ordeal. The New York Democrat spoke of an agreed-upon “framework” for a deal.
“We agreed that the president would support enshrining DACA protections into law,” he said. “In fact, it’s something he’s stated for a while that needs to be done. And the president would also encourage the House and Senate to act. What remains to be negotiated are the details of border security, with a mutual goal of finalizing all details as soon as possible.”
The biggest fire that emerged after news of the DACA discussions was over the idea that Trump would either abandon his pledge to build a wall or put off wall funding for some future immigration-related deal.
In his early-morning tweets, Trump seemed to equate his border-wall proposal with repairs and reinforcements of an existing wall along the border – certainly not the same idea that many of his supporters have of Trump’s border wall.
Pressed at length on this topic on Thursday, Trump seemed to provide an array of answers, saying both that “without the wall, I wouldn’t do anything” and that “the wall will come later.”
“Very important is the wall,” he told reporters on his Florida trip. “We have to be sure the wall isn’t obstructed. Very important is the wall. We have to be sure the wall isn’t obstructed, because without the wall, I wouldn’t do anything … It doesn’t have to be here, but they can’t obstruct the wall if it’s in a budget or anything else.”
Trump also said he would finalize an agreement on DACA only if “we get extreme security” that comes near but is not a wall.
“If we get not only surveillance but everything that goes along with surveillance,” he said. “And ultimately we have to have the wall. If we don’t have the wall, we’re doing nothing.”
Schumer said in his floor speech that though the leaders had agreed that the wall would not be pursued in DACA negotiations, Trump told them that he would pursue the wall “at a later time” and the Democrats “made clear we would continue to oppose it.”
“We have an understanding on this issue,” Schumer said. “We have to work out details, and we can work together on a border-security package with the White House and get DACA on the floor quickly.”
DACA or Dream?
There was much confusion on Thursday morning over whether the loose agreement involved codifying into law the executive order that created DACA, or whether Trump was agreeing to sign the Dream Act into law if it were to pass Congress.
While both would serve as a form of amnesty, the Dream Act would provide DACA recipients a path to US citizenship, while codifying DACA would not, though it would provide several protections for certain people.
One of the first questions Trump faced on Thursday morning was whether he favored amnesty. Trump shouted back: “The word is DACA.”
While both releases from Schumer and Pelosi said Trump had agreed to support enshrining DACA protections into law, Democrats said the two leaders were discussing the Dream Act with Trump.
A top Democratic staffer told Business Insider that Schumer and Pelosi “were pitching Dream.”
During her Thursday press conference, Pelosi said Trump had agreed to move forward on a deal that involved the Dream Act tied with enhanced border security.
“He too wanted to see some border initiatives, which we said we would look into,” Pelosi said, adding that “any solution to the challenges facing the Dreamers must include the bipartisan Dream Act.”
The California Democrat said the Dream Act included a pathway to citizenship and that those who would be covered by the legislation got “way at the end of the line of people who have been here fully documented.”
“It’s a long path,” Pelosi said. “It’s, like, a 15-year path, and this is an earned path, in other words, in the Dream Act. It’s an earned path, but it is a long road … We agreed on our path, which is our insistence in every conversation with the speaker, with the president, with the Dreamers that it will be the Dream Act sponsored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard.”
A comment from a White House representative seemed to back up what Pelosi said. They told CNN that while Trump would “not be discussing amnesty,” he would discuss “legal citizenship over a period of time.”
Speaking to reporters, Trump said, “No, we’re not looking at citizenship” or amnesty.
“We’re looking at allowing people to stay here,” he said, which signaled he was speaking about codifying DACA protections. “We’re working with everybody – Republican, we’re working with Democrat. I just spoke with Paul Ryan; he’s on board. Everybody is on board. They want to do something.
“We’re not talking about amnesty,” he continued. “We’re talking about – we’re talking about taking care of people, people that were brought here, people that have done a good job and were not brought here of their own volition.”