WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump lashed out Wednesday at the federal court that temporarily blocked his administration from ending a program protecting nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation. His twitter attack came as lawmakers planned talks on extending those protections.
Bipartisan bargainers fresh off a White House meeting with the president Tuesday said they hoped to parlay that session into momentum for resolving the politically blistering issue.
But Trump lobbed a new salvo Wednesday after U.S. District Judge William Alsup late Tuesday granted a request by California and other plaintiffs to prevent Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while their lawsuits play out in court.
“It just shows everyone how broken and unfair” the court system is, Trump tweeted, when those opposed to his policies “almost always” win in the federal court district that includes that court.
It’s not clear what effect the ruling might have on the talks on Capitol Hill. The judge said lawyers in favor of DACA clearly demonstrated that the young immigrants “were likely to suffer serious, irreparable harm” without court action.
Facing a Jan. 19 deadline for averting an election-year government shutdown, lawmakers are seeking a formula for reviving protections against deportation that Trump has ended for nearly the young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and are now living here illegally. In exchange, Trump and Republicans want toughened border protections and tightened restrictions on others trying to migrate to this country.
“I’ll take all the heat you want,” Trump told nearly two dozen lawmakers Tuesday at the White House for a meeting that began with a startling 55 minutes in which reporters and TV cameras watched. “But you are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
Trump said an immigration deal could be reached in two phases – first by addressing young immigrants and border security with what he called a “bill of love,” then by making comprehensive changes that have long eluded Congress. That second bill would likely face long odds for passage, considering long-running disagreements over issues like how to handle all 11 million immigrants illegally in the U.S.
Republicans will need Democratic votes to prevent a federal shutdown in 10 days, votes Democrats have threatened to withhold without an immigration agreement. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters talks would begin as early as Wednesday, adding, “And we’ll solve this problem and find common ground.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that the federal judge’s ruling was “outrageous, especially in light of the President’s successful bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members at the White House on the same day.” She said the issue should “go through the normal legislative process” and pledged Trump “will work with members of both parties to reach a permanent solution.”
After Trump and lawmakers spent time meeting privately, the White House and numerous lawmakers said there was agreement to limit the immediate bill to four areas. These were border security, family-based “chain migration,” a visa lottery that draws people from diverse countries and how to revive the DACA program.
That Obama-era program has given hundreds of thousands – the so-called Dreamers – a shield from deportation and the right to work legally. Trump ended it last year but gave Congress until March 5 to find a fix, and Tuesday he signaled flexibility.
Trump even flashed some give on his cherished plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, perhaps his highest profiled pledge from last year’s presidential campaign. That proposal has been strongly opposed by Democrats and many Republicans as a futile waste of money.
Trump said it needn’t be a “2,000-mile wall. We don’t need a wall where you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting it. But we do need a wall for a fairly good portion.” He’d made similar statements last year, but this time it was in the context of negotiations for actual legislation.
Both parties were already showing signs of divisions over how much to give in upcoming talks. But one conservative foe of giving ground acknowledged the impact of Trump’s support.
“There are scores of Republicans who have shifted their position to follow the president,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. He said while he helped head off a bipartisan immigration effort in 2013, “I don’t want to promise the result will be the same. This is more momentum than I have ever seen.”
But Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who was not there and like Cuellar is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he favored a narrow bill protecting Dreamers with perhaps something negotiable on border security.
One attendee, No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois, said, “The sense of urgency, the commitment to DACA, the fact that the president said to me privately as well as publicly, ‘I want to get this done,’ I’m going to take him as his word.”
Conservatives quickly sounded alarms about a process that would lead to a comprehensive agreement on immigration, a path that has long been anathema to many rank-and-file Republicans.
AP reporters Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor and Marcy Gordon contributed.