Trump pushes bipartisan immigration deal, but renews demand on border wall
WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump urged lawmakers on Tuesday to find a bipartisan solution to protect thousands of young, undocumented immigrants from deportation but repeated his demand that any agreement must include funding for a border wall with Mexico.
At a White House meeting of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, Trump said he would sign any bill that gives protection to young "Dreamer" immigrants as long as it had the border security protections he has sought.
"If you don't have the wall, you don't have security," Trump told the lawmakers.
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"You folks are going to have to come up with a solution, and if you do, I'm going to sign that solution," he told them.
Trump and his fellow Republicans, who control the U.S. Congress, have been unable to reach agreement with Democrats on a deal to resolve the status of an estimated 700,000 young immigrants whose protection from potential deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program ends in early March.
Under pressure from immigrant groups ahead of midterm congressional elections in November, Democrats are reluctant to give ground to Trump on the issue of the wall - Trump's central promise from the 2016 presidential campaign.
The immigration negotiations are part of a broader series of talks over issues ranging from funding the federal government through next September to renewing a children’s health insurance program and giving U.S. territories and states additional aid for rebuilding following last year’s hurricanes and wildfires.
Top congressional leaders did not attend the hour-long meeting. Instead, the guest list included lawmakers from both parties involved in the immigration debate, such as Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat.
Many of the Dreamers are from Mexico and Central America and have spent most of their lives in the United States, attending school and participating in society.
Trump put their fate in doubt in early September when he announced he was ending former President Barack Obama's DACA program, which allowed them to legally live and work in the United States temporarily.
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Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, said a DACA bill could win support for passage even though there are differences between the parties over constitutes necessary border security.
"Democrats are for security at the border," Hoyer told Trump during the meeting. "There are obviously differences, however, Mr. President, on how you affect that."
Trump, under pressure from some conservatives, repeated his demand that any DACA deal with Democrats must include ending "chain migration," which could jeopardize the parents of Dreamers who are still in the United States illegally, and a visa lottery program.
Some House Republicans want to use Dreamer legislation to add more funds for immigration enforcement, which advocacy groups fear would be used to go after the relatives of the young immigrants. (Reporting by Steve Holland and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Susan Heavey and Amanda Becker; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Alistair Bell)