WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday rejected a push by moderate congressional Republicans for a ‘Dreamer’ immigration deal, saying he would only back sweeping immigration legislation that met all of his demands, including a U.S-Mexico border wall.
“Unless it includes a wall, and I mean a wall, a real wall, and unless it includes very strong border security, there’ll be no approvals from me,” Trump told Fox News. Any bill would also have to end a visa lottery programme and curb visas for legal immigrants’ relatives, he added.
“It’s time to get the whole package,” he said in an interview on the “Fox and Friends” programme taped on Wednesday that aired on Thursday.
Some centrist Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are negotiating a bill to address the future of young immigrants known as “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
A group of more conservative House Republicans, however, has said they are closing in on a measure with tough new controls on legal and illegal immigration that would win Trump’s support. That plan, however, is unlikely to win over their more moderate colleagues or Democrats.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has so far avoided pressure from both sides of his caucus to take up the contentious issue ahead of the November elections that could create headaches for Republicans as they seek to maintain control of the House and the Senate.
Ryan has said he is working with the White House on a plan that Trump would sign into law.
Moderate House Republicans want to force a series of votes on four separate immigration bills in defiance of the House Republican leadership, hoping to join with Democrats to pull off a rare procedural manoeuvre.
The bipartisan measure would put “Dreamer” immigrants on a path to citizenship and includes border security but no wall funding.
The plan backed by conservative Republicans, spearheaded by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, offers Dreamers temporary protections but not citizenship in addition to immigration curbs.
A third measure would simply protect Dreamers from deportation, while a fourth from Ryan remains largely unwritten.
Trump told Fox he was optimistic that Democrats would get on board. “I think there’s a lot of pressure on the Democrats to get it approved, frankly, and also to change the immigration laws to toughen them up a lot,” he said.
The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme protects around 700,000 young adults, mostly Hispanics, from deportation and gives them work permits for two-year periods, after which they must reapply.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)