President Donald Trump on Wednesday previewed his outline for an immigration bill that he will promote next week, saying he wants $25 billion to build a border wall and is open to granting citizenship to “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the United States as children.
The White House said earlier on Wednesday that it would unveil a framework for immigration legislation that it believes can pass muster with both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress, hoping to resolve the long stand-off over the fate of Dreamers that contributed to the brief government shutdown this week.
Republican Trump has said protections for the young immigrants will end in March unless Congress passes a new law, but told reporters that he might extend the deadline if lawmakers cannot reach an agreement by March 5 and that he thinks an immigration deal is possible.
Trump said he wanted to offer the Dreamers, protected from deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an “incentive” of citizenship perhaps in 10 to 12 years. He added that addressing the status of their parents, who entered the United States illegally, was “tricky.”
Trump’s impromptu comments signaled a major breakthrough, said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the lead lawmakers in the immigration negotiations.
“President Trump’s support for a pathway to citizenship will help us get strong border security measures as we work to modernize a broken immigration system,” he said in a statement. “With this strong statement by President Trump, I have never felt better about our chances of finding a solution on immigration.”
Graham was part of a bipartisan group of three dozen senators who met on Wednesday on Capitol Hill to discuss moving forward on immigration legislation.
After the meeting, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill expressed cautious optimism to reporters about Trump’s framework, saying “that could go either way,” when asked if it will be helpful to lawmakers.
Trump said he would also suggest $5 billion for border security and would seek to curb family sponsorship of immigrants and the visa lottery system in his framework.