President Trump Wednesday expressed optimism about reaching a bipartisan deal on immigration, suggesting he is even open to granting citizenship to Dreamers after a 10- to 12-year period as part of a comprehensive plan.
He also told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that — if a deal is in sight — he is open to extending the March 5 deadline for ending the DACA program that protects some 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. He said DACA recipients shouldn’t worry.
“Tell them not to be concerned. Tell them not to worry, we’re going to solve the problem,” he told reporters at an impromptu White House news conference.
Asked about citizenship, Trump said, “We’re going to morph into it. It’s going to happen.”
“Over a period of 10 to 12 years if someone does a great job, they’ve worked hard, it gives incentive to do a great job. If they’ve worked hard they’ve done terrifically, whether they have a little company, or whether they’ve worked, whatever they’re doing, if they do a great job I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of after a period of years being able to be a citizen,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments came after the White House, earlier in the day, announced it would release its own plan for a compromise on immigration policy Monday that it said both Democrats and Republicans could support and would end the debate that led to last weekend’s government shutdown.
The move comes after members of Congress on both sides have criticized the president for not being clear about what he wants in an immigration deal.
Trump also said Wednesday night that he does not believe Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s statement that his offer to fund a border wall is now off the table as part of an immigration deal, saying he said he made the offer to the president to avoid the government shutdown.
“No. I don’t [believe the wall is off the table]. In fact, I just watched Joe Manchin and he said Schumer does not mean that, and said it very strongly,” Trump said.
The president suggested despite the acrimony between he and Schumer during the shutdown fight, he’s even ready to extend an invitation for a White House meeting again soon.
“Sure, I like him,” Trump said, laughing. “I grew up with Schumer.”
Trump said he will ask for $25 billion to build the wall, but “will build it way under budget.”
If Congress doesn’t come up with a legislative solution for the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients they could face deportation after the March 5 deadline. In the shorter term, the temporary spending resolution ends on Feb. 8, raising the possibility of another government shutdown if there is no bipartisan agreement.
Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn hinted at what Republicans and the president could propose in a new immigration deal on the Hill on Wednesday, telling reporters that if Congress wants a bipartisan solution for DACA recipients, Republicans will want something close to a 10-year appropriation for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and security funding.
Even Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., a trusted Trump ally on Capitol Hill, told ABC News Tuesday night that Republicans needed some guidance from the president on what he wants.
“The president has given us his general outline of what he’s interested in but you can’t do a bill based on a general outline and at some point we’re going to need more specificity from him,” Kennedy said. “And I’m not complaining, I’m just saying at some point we’re going to need to know exactly what the White House is thinking because who wants to pass a bill only to have it vetoed.”
Cornyn also said on the Senate floor Wednesday that Congress will need at least two more short-term spending deals before Democrats and Republicans can come to any sort of agreement to fund the government, raise spending caps, address immigration and DACA, and fund disaster relief.
“As a result of the shutdown, the Democratic leader — who said he voted against the four week continuing resolution because he didn’t like continuing resolutions — he’s guaranteed us at least two more continuing resolutions, even if the spending caps were agreed upon in the next few days,” Cornyn said.
ABC News’s Mariam Khan, Jordyn Phelps, John Santucci, Devin Dwyer, and Cindy Smith contributed to this report