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Trump Urges Congress To Act On Replacing DACA Program

Sep 6, 2017
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Trump says he has no second thoughts about phasing out DACA. That's the Obama administration program that has shielded from deportation nearly 800,000 people in the country illegally, all of whom came here when they were children. Trump was clearing up some confusion after he tweeted last night that he would revisit the DACA program if Congress fails to meet his six-month deadline to come up with a legislative fix.

Well, for more, we're joined by NPR's Geoff Bennett. Hello, Geoff.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Hey, Robert.

SIEGEL: Last night's tweet seemed to suggest that the president would be willing to act on his own to preserve the DACA program if Congress fails to pass a law. Do you think that's what he meant?

BENNETT: I don't think so. First, it's tough to imagine how he could even take steps to unilaterally reinstate DACA considering that his own administration has declared the policy unconstitutional. I think he was trying to mitigate some of the criticism leveled against him for choosing to phase out the program even with the six-month delay and project some compassion given the ways in which his decision upends the lives of these DREAMers, as these young immigrants are known.

But you know, Robert, this was a topic that came up earlier today as the president met with congressional leaders of both parties in the Oval Office, and reporters got a chance to ask him about it this afternoon aboard Air Force One. He said there were no mixed signals coming from his administration over DACA. And he was asked directly what he meant by that tweet in which he said he would revisit it. Here's what he said.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I wanted to see what happens. I want to see what happens in Congress. I have a feeling that's not going to be necessary. I think they're going to make a deal. I think Congress really wants to do this.

BENNETT: Now, Democrats say they want to tackle this immigration question, but Republicans by and large have not been angling to do this because it's divisive. It divides the party. And one need only look at the legislative wreckage of the past immigration overhaul attempts as proof.

SIEGEL: We understand Republicans are divided. Do we have a sense of what most Republicans in Congress want to do about it?

BENNETT: Well, House Speaker Paul Ryan says he's willing to work within his own party and with Democrats to find a compromise. But he, like most Republicans, aren't really interested in a standalone bill aimed at fixing just DACA. He wants a more comprehensive approach. Here's what he told reporters this morning.

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PAUL RYAN: It's only reasonable and fitting that we also address the root cause of the problem, which is borders that are not sufficiently controlled, while we address this very real and very human problem that's right in front of us.

SIEGEL: OK. That's the speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan. What are we hearing from the Democrats?

BENNETT: Well Democratic leaders today said they want Republicans to immediately put the DREAM Act on the floor for a vote in both the House and Senate. And Chuck Schumer, the senate leader of Democrats, said that if the GOP doesn't bring it to the floor, Democrats will try to attach it to any must-pass legislation that moves this fall. And the DREAM Act, you'll remember, would grant permanent legal status to DREAMers so long as they meet certain requirements.

And then separate from that, there's a coalition of mostly democratic state attorneys general who filed suit in federal court in New York today to stop this sunset of DACA. And they say that Trump's previous comments about Mexicans should be used against him as part of the suit. They say that that shows a discriminatory motive.

SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's Geoff Bennett, who covers the White House. Geoff, thanks.

BENNETT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.