Trump blindsides his party with Democratic ‘Dreamer deal’

President ‘agrees’ to Daca protection in return for stronger border – but no wall

Shifting stance: President Trump talks to journalists on Air Force One as Fox News reports on his talks with Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Donald Trump took the Republican leadership by surprise on Thursday, confirming that he is working with Democrats on a deal to protect the young undocumented migrants known as Dreamers from deportation.

A little over a week after announcing the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Daca, programme introduced by his predecessor Barack Obama, to protect undocumented migrants who were brought to the United States as children, Mr Trump said he was committed to protecting them.

“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really! . . . They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own brought in by parents at young age,” he tweeted on Thursday morning.

White House dinner

His comments came after a dinner at the White House on Wednesday evening with Chuck Schumer, the top-ranking Democrat in the United States Senate, and Nancy Pelosi, the senior Democrat in the House of Representatives.


But while Mr Schumer and Ms Pelosi claimed after the meal that a deal had been agreed on Daca and a border-security package that excluded a proposed wall between the United States and Mexico, Mr Trump disputed their version of events on Thursday. "No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote," he said on Twitter.

Mr Trump has already given Congress six months to come up with a legislative package to address the status of Dreamers before the scheme is abolished. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the House speaker, Paul Ryan, said that he had spoken to Mr Trump and had been assured that there had been "no agreement" on Daca.

"The president and his chief of staff called me from Air Force One today to discuss what was discussed – and it was a discussion, not an agreement or a negotiation." He also noted that Republicans had a majority in Congress. "I think the president understands that he has to work with the congressional majorities to get any kind of legislative solution," he said.

In brief comments to reporters during a visit to Florida to meet victims of Hurricane Irma, Mr Trump said that he was not considering an amnesty, or granting citizenship to Dreamers, but that the discussion was about “taking care of people”. He also said that his proposed wall on the southern border would proceed but “come later”.

“The wall is going to be built, it will be funded a little bit later,” he said, adding: “If the wall is going to be obstructed . . . then we’re not doing anything.”

Shifting stance

Mr Trump's shifting stance on the status of Dreamers and the border wall risks alienating his supporters and many on the right of the Republican Party, many of whom endorsed Mr Trump as a presidential candidate because of his tough position on immigration.

The right-wing Breitbart News website, which is run by Mr Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, ran an article under the headline "Amnesty Don", following reports that a deal on Daca had been agreed at the Wednesday-night dinner.

Mr Trump’s meeting with the Democratic leadership in Congress also marks the second time in a week that the president has reached out to the opposition party, blindsiding Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, as the president, first lady and Vice-President Mike Pence met victims of Hurricane Irma, the death toll from the hurricane continued to rise. Eight elderly people are now confirmed to have died after a tree apparently hit the transformer that powered the air conditioning of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a care facility north of Miami, allowing the temperature inside the building to rise to fatal levels.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent