Mr. Trump said he supported a two-phase approach that would first codify the protections created under DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that he has moved to end by March, and then address other undocumented immigrants. Democrats have insisted that the program, which grants reprieves from deportation and work permits to immigrants brought to the United States without authorization as children, be part of any longer-term agreement to fund the government beyond Jan. 19, when current funding expires.
But the president said action on the more ambitious immigration measure would be possible “the next afternoon.” Previous attempts to enact such a broad bipartisan immigration compromise, during the Obama presidency and the presidency of George W Bush, proved politically impossible. Comprehensive immigration bills passed the Senate in 2006 and in 2013 only to be stymied in the House.
“You created an opportunity here, Mr. President,” Mr. Graham said to Mr. Trump, “and you need to close the deal.”
Seated with members of both parties during a meeting at the White House to discuss a narrower immigration agreement, the president said there was room for a compromise on DACA.
“We have something in common,” Mr. Trump said of Democrats. “We’d like to see this get done.”
But the president said he would insist on strict new immigration limits as part of any such measure, calling it a “bill of love.” Laying out conditions that many Democrats view as nonstarters, Mr. Trump said the legislation must fortify the nation’s borders; end “chain migration,” a term used by immigration critics to refer to immigrants’ ability to bring members of their extended family to the United States after gaining their own legal status; and cancel the diversity visa lottery program.
“I really do believe Democrat and Republican, the people sitting in this room, really want to get something done,” Mr. Trump said.
Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and a leading proponent of codifying the DACA protections, said members of his party would support some border security measures, but noted that action to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation was urgent, given that their grants of legal status will begin expiring in early March.
“Lives are hanging in the balance,” Mr. Durbin said. “We’ve got the time to do it.”