President Trump hosted a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House on Tuesday to talk about revamping the nation’s immigration policies. During the meeting, Mr. Trump told the group that he hoped to come up with “an answer for DACA” and said it should be a “bill of love.”
“I really do believe Democrats and Republicans, the people sitting in this room, really want to get something done,” Mr. Trump said. He told them they should “put country before party,” and he called for a permanent fix rather than a stop-gap bill.
At same time however, Mr. Trump said that the U.S. needs stronger borders to block drug trafficking into the country, and he insisted on ending “chain migration” and “visa lottery” programs. The president said, as he has in the past, that other countries “give you the people they don’t want” and “the United States takes those people.”
Instead, Mr. Trump said, he’d like to see merit-based immigration in any bill. “I very much think the American public wants that,” he said.
The president said that the process of legislation should begin in the House, and he turned to Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, who said he would be introducing a bill in the coming days.
Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham said he’s been working on the immigration issue for 10 years, and he’s for a pathway to citizenship. He urged the group to look more broadly at comprehensive immigration reform.
“You created an opportunity here, Mr. President, and you need to close the deal,” Graham said.
In response, Mr. Trump said, “If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat.” He added, “You are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
The president also appeared to suggest he would be open to a two-phase approach to DACA and border security, then comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
“We can do DACA and tackle comprehensive immigration reform “the next afternoon,” he said.
The meeting came just five days after the president said the current immigration system in place “fails Americans” and that any legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for so-called Dreamers “must secure the wall.”
Noticeably absent from Tuesday’s meeting were Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer, of New York, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, of California. The two had previouslybefore the holiday season to discuss government funding in an effort to avoid a federal shutdown but the group’s sparring over over the past few months.