President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he was willing to consider eventual citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children by their parents.
“We’re going to morph into it. It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years,” Trump said to a group of reporters at the White House.
On Twitter, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has proposed a bipartisan immigration deal with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, quickly hailed the president’s comments, saying they “will allow us to solve a difficult problem.”
Such consideration for the so-called “Dreamers” who are beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy would be part of an immigration reform plan, according to the president, that would restrict family sponsorship of immigrants and curtail the diversity visa lottery program.
Trump also said he wanted $25 billion for constructing his oft-touted wall along the 3,200-kilometer (1,990-mile) U.S. border with Mexico.
The president’s comments, prior to his departure to attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, came hours after his administration announced it would unveil on Monday an outline for lawmakers “that represents a compromise that members of both parties can support.”
The package is seen as an attempt by the White House to take the lead on the emotionally charged issue of immigration.
The reforms proposed by the administration “were assembled in coordination with front-line law enforcement officers and career public servants who know what is necessary to keep America safe,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters during Wednesday’s daily press briefing.
The administration said it was based on four fundamental issues: securing the border and closing legal loopholes; ending extended-family migration, called “chain migration” by some; canceling the visa lottery; and providing a permanent solution on DACA, which has allowed some who illegally entered the United States as minors to avoid deportation and be eligible for work permits.
The framework, according to the press secretary, takes into account conversations “with dozens” of House and Senate members from both parties.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump spoke to mayors gathered in the White House East Room, and he assailed those who had decided just hours before not to attend as word came that the Justice Department was demanding new proof from 23 states and cities that they were cooperating with federal immigration authorities to provide information about undocumented immigrants they have jailed for various alleged crimes.
“The mayors who choose to boycott this event have put the needs of criminal illegal immigrants over law-abiding Americans,” said the president, noting the “vast majority” showed up who “believe in safety for your city.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter he would not attend because the Justice Department “decided to renew their racist assault on our immigrant communities. It doesn’t make us safer and it violates America’s core values.”
The White House press secretary said earlier, “If mayors have a problem with that, they should talk to Congress, the people that pass the laws. The Department of Justice enforces them, and as long as that is the law, the Department of Justice is going to strongly enforce it.”
The White House spokeswoman added, “We cannot allow people to pick and choose what laws they want to follow.”
The Justice Department action aims to eliminate “sanctuary cities,” which provide safe havens for immigrants who have illegally entered the country.
“Sanctuary cities are the best friend of gangs and cartels,” Trump told the mayors.
The Justice Department is demanding proof from three states — Illinois, Oregon and California — that they are cooperating with immigration authorities, along with five major cities — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Denver.
The political debate over U.S. immigration policies was at the center of the three-day partial government shutdown that ended Monday.
The White House and lawmakers have so far been unable to agree on how to protect the roughly 800,000 DACA beneficiaries. Trump rescinded the Obama-era program last year but gave Congress until March 5 to weigh in on the issue.
According to a Pew Research Center survey taken this month, 74 percent of Americans favor granting permanent legal status to immigrants brought to the United States illegally when they were children, while 60 percent oppose the president’s pledge to substantially expand the wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.