Donald Trump says no deal has been struck with Democrats to protect Dreamers

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer  - AP
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer - AP

The top House and Senate Democrats said on Wednesday they had reached agreement with Donald Trump to protect thousands of younger immigrants from deportation and fund some border security enhancements, which the president has since denied.

The deal announced by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi following a White House dinner would enshrine protections for the nearly 800,000 immigrants brought illegally to this country as kids who had benefited from former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, programme.

The programme provided temporary work permits and protection from deportation.

However, Mr Trump has said that no deal was struck.

In a tweet, he said: "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."

Democrats said the discussions did not include the president's long-sought border wall, but Mr Trump said the that construction was still going ahead.

"The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built," he tweeted.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi - Credit: AP
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Credit: AP

Mr Trump ended the programme earlier this month and had given Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the statuses of the so-called "Dreamers" begin to expire.

"We 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," Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.

However, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders threw doubt on the agreement to exclude the wall. 

"While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to," she tweeted. 

The announcement angered hardline Republicans. Congressman Steve King, an Iowa Republican who believes that DACA is unconstitutional, tweeted: "@RealDonaldTrump Unbelievable! Amnesty is a pardon for immigration law breakers coupled with the reward of the objective of their crime."

It was the second time in two weeks that Mr Trump cut out Republicans to reach a deal with Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer. A person briefed on the meeting told AP the deal specified bipartisan legislation called the DREAM Act that provides eventual citizenship for the young immigrants.

The White House said in its own statement that the president had had "a constructive working dinner" with Schumer, Pelosi and administration officials "to discuss policy and legislative priorities," including DACA.

"This is a positive step toward the President’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans," the White House said.

During a White House meeting with moderate House members from both parties earlier Wednesday, Mr Trump had urged lawmakers to come up with a bipartisan solution.

"We don’t want to forget DACA," the president told the members at the meeting. "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."

What is Daca and who are the Dreamers?

If struck, the apparent deal would be the latest example of Mr Trump’s sudden pivot to bipartisanship after months of railing against Democrats as "obstructionist." He has urged them to join him in overhauling the nation’s tax code, among other priorities.

Mr Trump, who was deeply disappointed by Republicans’ failure to pass a health care overhaul, infuriated many in his party when he reached a three-month deal with Schumer and Pelosi to raise the debt ceiling, keep the government running and speed relief to states affected by recent hurricanes.

"More and more we’re trying to work things out together," Mr Trump explained on Wednesday, 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.

The thorny issue of immigration has been vexing lawmakers for years. Funding for Mr Trump’s promised wall had been thought to be a major point of contention between Republicans and Democrats as they attempted to forge a deal.