WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday said deporting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought into the country illegally is "not in our nation's interest," as he and President Donald Trump prepared to huddle with top Democrats to try to hash out a legislative fix.
Speaking in an AP Newsmaker interview, Ryan said he believes the president "made the right call" when he announced he would give Congress six months to figure out what to do with former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program before dismantling it. DACA has given nearly 800,000 young people protection from deportation and the right to work legally in the country.
"I wanted him to give us time. I didn't want this to be rescinded on Day One and create chaos," Ryan said, arguing the time would allow Congress to "come up with the right kind of consensus and compromise to fix this problem."
As part of that effort, Ryan was meeting with the House's top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, on Wednesday evening, before Pelosi heads to the White House for a dinner with Trump and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. The leaders were expected to discuss DACA, among issues, according to congressional aides and the White House. Trump also met with a group of moderate members of Congress from both parties Wednesday afternoon, where he urged them to come up with a bipartisan solution to protect DACA recipients, who have become known as "Dreamers."
The get-togethers come amid new signs there may be room for compromise on the thorny issue of immigration, which has been vexing lawmakers for years. Trump, who was deeply disappointed by Republicans' failure to pass a health care overhaul, has shown a new willingness to work with Democrats in recent weeks, despite railing against them as "obstructionist."
Last week Trump infuriated many in his party when he reached a three-month agreement with Schumer and Pelosi to raise the debt ceiling, keep the government running and speed relief to states affected by recent hurricanes. Pelosi and a top White House staffer also indicated Tuesday that they were open to a compromise on border security to expedite legislation protecting DACA recipients.
Trump urged lawmakers gathered to discuss tax reform not to forget the immigration issue as they dig into the fall agenda.
"We don't want to forget DACA. And it's already been a week and a half and people don't talk about it as much," he said, adding: "We want to see if we can do something in a bipartisan fashion so that we can solve the DACA problem and other immigration problems. So we'll be discussing that today."
Trump has also been pushing Democrats to join him in overhauling the nation's tax code and making a major investment in infrastructure spending, despite chilly relations in the first months of his administration.
"More and more we're trying to work things out together," Trump said, calling the development a "positive thing" for both parties.
"If you look at some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done on a bipartisan manner. And so that's what we're going to give a shot," he said.
One issue of contention has been whether the president will demand funding for his promised southern border wall in exchange for signing DACA legislation.
White House legislative director Marc Short said Tuesday that, while the president remained committed to the wall, funding for it did not necessarily need to be linked directly to the "Dreamers" issue.
"I don't want us to bind ourselves into a construct that makes reaching a conclusion on DACA impossible," Short said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.