Trump is still looking for a DACA deal

President Donald Trump plans to once again try to use protections for immigrants who came to the country illegally as children, known as Dreamers, to push Congress to pass a broader immigration deal, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Trump alluded to unspecified legislation in a Friday interview with Telemundo, but his comments left even White House officials confused. He used the words “executive order” and “bill” interchangeably and said he would be signing a bill, though Congress has not passed one.

“I'm going to be, over the next few weeks, signing an immigration bill that a lot of people don't know about,” he said. “I'm going to be signing a major immigration bill as an executive order, which the Supreme Court now, because of the DACA decision, has given me the power to do that.”

In June, the Supreme Court rejected Trump's attempt to end the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, on relatively narrow grounds, leaving the door open for Trump to try to kill it again.

The White House is widely expected to take another shot at eradicating the program that has allowed nearly 700,000 immigrants to work and live in the U.S. but not before he tries again to make a deal with Congress. No final decision has been made, according to a person close to DHS.

“The president has long said he is willing to work with Congress on a negotiated legislative solution to DACA, one that could include citizenship, along with strong border security and permanent merit-based reforms,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere In a statement released late Friday in an effort to clarify the president’s earlier remarks. “This does not include amnesty. Unfortunately, Democrats have continually refused these offers as they are opposed to anything other than totally open borders.”

Finding any congressional solution on DACA will be nearly impossible for a divided Congress in an election year.

Earlier this year, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, had floated including protections for Dreamers as part of a broader immigration package, POLITICO reported in June. Kushner has been talking to lawmakers for months about a 600-page bill that would grant permanent status to more high-skilled, well-educated immigrants, while reducing the number of immigrants who enter the U.S. based on family ties. The bill, which has not won much support, even from Republicans, didn’t originally include DACA but Kushner has suggested to Senate offices that it could be added.

Trump is also considering signing an executive order that could include some aspect of the merit-based system, Deere said.

Trump has previously offered legislative proposals that would give Dreamers permanent legal protections in exchange for some of his hard-line immigration priorities, including cuts to legal immigration and border wall funding. But the offers failed in part because the president himself backed away after facing opposition from immigration hawks who accused him of going against his own campaign promises.

Democrats, suspicious of any immigration deals with Trump, are waiting to see whether their party wins back the White House and Senate in November.

House Democrats have passed a bill that would provide legal status and eventual citizenship to 2.3 million Dreamers, including DACA recipients. But the Senate, which needs 60 votes to pass legislation, has ignored it.