President Donald Trump said he would "love to see a shutdown" if Democrats refuse to back his immigration proposals. He also said the "stupidity" of the nation's immigration laws is allowing violent gangs like MS-13 to flourish in the U.S. (Feb. 6) AP
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday he will not allow his chamber to vote on a bill to protect DREAMers from deportation unless President Trump supports it.
The problem is, it's not clear exactly what the president will support.
Since starting his presidential campaign, Trump has given dramatically different opinions on what should happen to DREAMers — undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
He said they should be deported, but also said they should be protected from deportation. He said he will treat them with "great heart," but then ended the Obama-era program that has protected them. His White House issued an 18-point list of demands required for an immigration deal to protect them before issuing a 4-point list of demands.
Members of both parties have complained that they can't get a straight answer out of the White House. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it feels like "negotiating with Jell-O." Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would present a proposal acceptable to Trump, "as soon as we figure out what he is for."
Through all that, the White House insists Trump has delivered a consistent message.
"The president’s been clear about what his priorities are in that process," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said last month.
Here's a look at the president's evolving views on DREAMers, who number about 3.6 million people, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama-era initiative that has protected nearly 800,000 of them from deportation.
Trump on the Campaign Trail
Facing a crowded field of 17 Republicans vying for the party's nomination, Trump went to the hard right on immigration from the start.
In what became his signature policy initiative, he promised to build a "big, beautiful" wall along the southern border with Mexico and vowed to ramp up deportations of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants. When asked on Meet the Press whether he would make an exception for DREAMers, Trump didn't budge.
"They have to go," he said.
That stance changed within a week of winning the election.
Speaking with 60 Minutes, Trump said he would focus on deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records and would work on ways to limit future waves of illegal immigration. But he said he would find a way to allow DREAMers to remain in the country.
"After the border is secured and after everything gets normalized, we're going to make a determination on the people that you're talking about who are terrific people," he said.
Early President Trump
That sentiment only grew after he was sworn in as president.
During a ceremony at the White House in February 2016, Trump was asked if he would end DACA. He said that would be one of the hardest decisions he has to make because DACA recipients were "absolutely incredible kids."
"We're going to show great heart," he said. "I love these kids."
Trump ends DACA
We break down what DACA is and what it could mean for thousands of immigrants. USA TODAY
After months of speculation over what he would do, the president on Sept. 5 carried out his only concrete action to date on the issue: he terminated DACA.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the formal announcement, calling DACA an "unconstitutional exercise" of presidential authority by the former president Barack Obama. Trump only released a statement.
"I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents," Trump said in the statement. "But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."
The program wouldn't end immediately — Trump gave Congress six months to craft a legislative fix before DACA recipients started losing their protected status. But that very night, Trump hinted that he would save DREAMers if Congress failed to act.
"If they can't, I will revisit this issue!" he Tweeted.
Trump's decision to end DACA kicked off five turbulent months of negotiations.
They started in mid-September, when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had dinner with the president and walked out thinking they had a deal. They would pass a bill to permanently protect DREAMers in exchange for "massive" border security upgrades that did not include funding for the wall.
Within 24 hours, Trump killed that idea when he Tweeted: "No deal was made last night on DACA."
By October, things looked even more bleak. Trump sent a letter to congressional leaders outlining 18 policy proposals "that must be included as part of any legislation" to protect DREAMers. That list included nearly every proposal pushed for by outside groups that want to limit immigration, including a complete overhaul of the legal immigration system.
Not included in that letter was any explanation of how many DREAMers would be protected or whether they would ever be allowed to become U.S. citizens.
In December, a group of senators met with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to figure out which of the 18 policy proposals were really necessary to strike a deal. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told Politico at the time: "We couldn't finish this product, this bill, until we knew where the administration was."
A January 9 negotiating session simply added confusion. Trump hosted a bipartisan group of legislators at the White House in a rare, televised negotiation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked if Trump would allow for a "clean" DACA bill — meaning Congress would vote only on protecting DREAMers — with the promise that they would take up border security later.
"I would like to do that," Trump said.
Trump was immediately pulled back by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who said border security needed to be part of any deal. Trump appeared to disagree.
"I think what we’re all saying is we’ll do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon," he said. "Okay?"
In the end, he said he would approve whatever combination the legislators agreed on. "When this group ... comes back with a solution, I'm signing it," he said.
The meeting ended with negotiators announcing they had agreed that any deal would address four "pillars": a plan to protect DREAMers, funding for the border wall, the end of the diversity visa lottery, and a reduction in family-based migration.
Several groups of legislators have tried to craft a deal addressing the four pillars, but none of them have been able to get the White House to sign off. That contributed to a three-day government shutdown at the end of January.
On Jan. 24, Trump shocked reporters when he announced for the first time that he would support a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. The White House issued a legislative "framework" the following day that contained the four pillars it needed for a deal, including citizenship for up to 1.8 million DREAMers.
The plan was panned by both sides, with Republicans saying it protected too many DREAMers and Democrats calling its $25 billion down payment for a border wall too high.
Trump responded on Tuesday saying he would "love to see a shut down" if Congress didn't give him what he wanted.
The federal government runs out of money on Thursday. DACA officially ends on March 5. McConnell said Tuesday the Senate will have an immigration debate on the floor next week without a leadership-endorsed or White House-backed bill. Instead, he said, he will offer an “opportunity for a thousand flowers to bloom," with the victory going to whatever plan gets enough votes to pass.