The top House Democrat and a senior White House official both indicated Tuesday they are open to compromise on border security to expedite legislation to help immigrants brought here illegally as children.
White House legislative director Marc Short said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that despite President Donald Trump's advocacy for a southern border wall, "I don't want us to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible."
DACA refers to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by former President Barack Obama, which has extended temporary work permits and deportation protection to nearly 800,000 younger immigrants brought to this country illegally as minors. Trump announced last week he will dismantle the program in six months, and called on Congress to come up with a legislative solution before then.
Separately, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are backing legislation to help the young immigrants and hope to force a vote on it later this month — a maneuver that would require the support of at least two dozen Republicans. Pelosi said she is committed to helping the immigrants at risk and resolutely opposed to construction of a wall, but indicated openness to border security measures of some kind.
"We always want border stuff, so that's not a problem," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. She reiterated that Trump told her and others at a White House meeting last week that he would sign legislation to help those commonly referred to as "Dreamers" if it arrived on his desk, adding, "He said, 'I want some border security.'"
"We've been very clear. There is no wall in our DACA future," Pelosi added.
The comments from Short and Pelosi suggested room for compromise on the sensitive issue of immigration, which has been defeating lawmakers for years. Democrats have been adamant that they will not accept the wall in exchange for protections for "Dreamers," but have indicated support for border security enhancements short of a wall.
Last Thursday, after an unrelated event on infrastructure, Trump pressed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on whether he would accept the wall as a trade for protections for "Dreamers," but Schumer refused, according to a person familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose the private conversation.
On Tuesday, Schumer told reporters, "We'd certainly look at border security that makes sense, border security that's effective."
At the Christian Science Monitor event earlier, Short said the president remained committed to construction of a border wall, but not necessarily directly linked to the "Dreamers" issue. Construction of a physical wall along the entire 2,000-mile southern border is not practical or even possible, according to most experts and lawmakers of both parties, but Trump made it a central focus of his campaign for president.
"The president is committed to sticking by his commitment that a physical structure is what is needed to help protect the American people," Short said. "Whether or not that is specifically part of a DACA package or a different legislative package, I'm not going to pre-judge here today. But he is committed to making sure that wall is built."