Divisions have appeared among advisers to President Trump over whether to extract a signature policy of his predecessor, President Barack Obama that safeguards young immigrants from deportation, according to congressional sources and Republicans close to the White House.
Even though Trump campaigned on a promise to roll back Obama’s executive orders on immigration, the Republican has so far left intact an order safeguarding 750,000 people who were brought to the United States illegally as children, known as the “dreamers.”
The issue has become a flashpoint for White House advisers divided between a more moderate faction such as chief of staff Reince Priebus and immigration hardliners Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, said a former congressional aide who has been involved with immigration issues in Washington.
LONG TERM SOLUTION
Priebus has said publicly that Trump will work with Congress to get a “long-term solution” on the issue.
MASTERING THE THINKING
Meanwhile, Miller, said to have mastered the thinking of his former boss and anti-immigration advocate Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General, as well as Bannon, former head of right-wing Breitbart News, have pushed Trump to take a harder approach and rescind the protections.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
Two officials expect Trump to simply stop renewing the authorizations that “dreamers” currently have to work, drive and obtain higher education. Under that plan, the most recently renewed authorizations would expire in two years.
HOUSE REPUBLICAN AIDE
But a senior House Republican aide said it was uncertain whether the administration had scrapped the idea of overturning Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, as the internal debate plays out.
Preserving DACA has also become somewhat of a bartering chip as Trump seeks congressional support for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and other early administration priorities.
The White House is “acutely aware” of the firestorm in the country and within Congress that could swamp the unexperienced administration just as it nose-dives into negotiations over the wall, healthcare, tax reform and infrastructure investments, said the senior House Republican aide.
PROTECT THE “DREAMERS”
Another congressional aide described a Senate bill sponsored by Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Lindsey Graham to protect the “dreamers” as the “sugar that would help the medicine of the wall go down.”
The bill would likely face challenges winning the votes to pass. Efforts to attach some tough conservative amendments could lose Democratic Party support and sink the whole effort.
Trump has kept his public comments on DACA vague. In an interview with ABC News last Wednesday, Trump said his administration would be coming out with a policy to deal with “dreamers” over the next month.
“They shouldn’t be very worried. They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody. We’re going to have a very strong border,” Trump said in the interview with ABC.
Trump reportedly told Durbin during the Inaugural luncheon at the Capitol on Jan. 20 that he did not have to worry about an executive action overturning Obama’s order.
But there is scant trust among Democrats that Trump will keep his word. And immigration supporters said DACA recipients live in fear and doubt as the message from the White House and Republicans seems to shift by the day.
“RIGHT WITH THE LAW”
House Speaker Paul Ryan told a woman protected by DACA, at a town hall hosted by CNN Jan. 12, that there should be a solution for people like her to get “right with the law” and not be separated from their families.
Just two days prior, Sessions, a Senator, told a Senate panel considering his confirmation that it would “certainly be constitutional” to repeal DACA. Sessions also attempted to force a vote to block DACA in the Senate in 2014.
Miller, Sessions’ former staffer, is now Trump’s senior adviser for policy at the White House. Miller is known to be a staunch advocate for limiting immigration, even by workers who enter legally on visas.
OUTSIDERS TO REPUBLICANS
Both Miller and Bannon, Trump’s senior counselor and chief strategist, are seen as outsiders to the Republican establishment and unafraid to upset people like Ryan to stay true to Trump campaign promises.
Priebus, however, came to the White House after chairing the Republican National Committee and has spent years trying to unify the party and nurturing interactions with career politicians.
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