By Sophie Tatum
WASHINGTON (CBS) — Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi say they have “agreed” to a plan with President Donald Trump that would protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants, and resolved to iron out a border-security plan “excluding” the US-Mexico border wall, one of Trump’s most memorable campaign promises.
In a statement following their White House dinner with Trump on Wednesday, Schumer and Pelosi said the parties had “agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program had protected nearly 800,000 individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children from deportation. The Trump administration announced last week it would give Congress six months to pass legislation preserving those provisions before the program was terminated.
The bipartisan DREAM Act — a more comprehensive immigration bill that was proposed years ago but never passed — would be part of the arrangement, a person briefed on the meeting said.
A deal, if it holds, would be the second major agreement between Trump, Schumer and Pelosi this month, following their pact last week to raise the debt ceiling and extend government funding into December that left the GOP and some of Trump’s closest allies flabbergasted.
Congressional Republican leaders were absent from Wednesday’s dinner, which featured Chinese food and chocolate pie for dessert, sources said, and it is unclear how they will respond to the tentative deal or proceed with legislation.
Trump may also face fire from the right and his base for making a deal so quickly on DACA that doesn’t include the border wall, his signature issue during the campaign.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders immediately pushed back on the idea the wall would be dropped.
“While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to,” Sanders said.
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short confirmed that the President and Democrats agreed to work to find a legislative fix for DACA, but he called Democrats’ claim of a deal that would exclude wall funding “intentionally misleading.”
Schumer’s communications director Matt House retweeted Sanders’ statement, then added that Trump had indeed agreed to leaving the border wall out of the equation — at least for this round.
“The President made clear he would continue pushing the wall, just not as part of this agreement,” House tweeted.
Making a deal that finds a way to keep the individuals who benefit under DACA in the United States shows the challenge of striking bipartisan deals in Washington.
Now the question facing Trump is whether he can withstand the uncomfortable heat from his right flank.
The dinner took place the same day House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Democratic leadership and representatives from groups in the Capitol.
“It’s the beginning of a listening that the President asked us to do,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got a broken immigration system we’ve got to fix. It was the beginning of a discussion where we were listening to concerns.”
A White House official said in a statement that the topics discussed at Wednesday’s dinner included tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure and trade.
“This is a positive step toward the President’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans,” the statement said. “The administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle.”
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