Dems doubt Trump will show 'heart' toward immigrant kids

Dems doubt Trump will show 'heart' toward immigrant kids
© Greg Nash
Democrats were immediately skeptical of President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-ethics chief calls on Trump to end 'monstrous' migrant policies Laura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' US denies report of coalition airstrike on Syria MORE on Thursday when he suggested he may try to keep one of the most controversial programs of his predecessor: the temporary legalization of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as kids.
"I have absolutely no reason to believe anything that comes out of his mouth or anything that he tweets," said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's campaign arm.
During a frenetic press conference in the White House Thursday, the president said he's agonizing over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because he's torn between following "very rough" deportation laws and helping "incredible kids" who benefit from DACA.
At one point he suggested he supports the continuation of the program but needs some time to convince the congressional critics — virtually all of them Republicans — of its merits.
"We're gonna deal with DACA with heart," Trump said when asked of the program's future. "I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don't forget, and I have to convince them that what I'm saying is right."
Trump claimed some of the youngsters enrolled in DACA, also called "dreamers," are "gang members" and "drug dealers," suggesting there's plenty of room to improve the screening process. "But," he was quick to add, "you have some absolutely incredible kids — I would say mostly.
"It's a very, very tough subject."
Democrats were immediately dubious. 
They're already up in arms over a recent series of enforcement operations, conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which have led to the arrests of almost 700 undocumented immigrants in cities around the country — one of whom had twice enrolled in DACA.
And after meeting with ICE's acting director on Thursday, they have little faith that Trump will adopt anything but a hard-line approach to enforcement.
"It was hard to not leave that meeting and believe that the Trump administration is going to target as many immigrants as possible," Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) said. "The only hesitation they seemed to have was whether they would go after DACA recipients." 
Trump's decision to choose former Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLaura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' Merkley leads Dem lawmakers to border amid migrant policy outcry DHS secretary defends Trump administration's migrant policies MORE (R-Ala.), an immigration hard-liner, for the head of his Justice Department has only heightened the Democrats' suspicions.
"Donald Trump is dancing around what he's going to do with DACA, with 'dreamers,' [and] I think the reason for him dancing around it is because he is going to do something to harm them," Cárdenas said."He's already doing it."
Asked if Trump's recent comments lend any bit of hope, Cárdenas was terse.
"No, because I don't believe a word Donald Trump says," he said. 
Created by President Obama in 2012, DACA offers high-achieving undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 permission to work without fear of deportation. Supporters, including most Democrats, have hailed the initiative as a commonsense way to ensure the limited ICE resources target only violent criminals and those who pose a safety threat. 
But Republicans have long railed against the program, accusing Obama of acting unilaterally to grant "amnesty" to illegal immigrants in a manner that sidestepped Congress and defied the Constitution, a message Trump adopted on the campaign trail. As a candidate, he vowed to terminate the program on "day one."
But on Thursday, the president sounded a different tone. He said DACA is "one of the most difficult subjects" he's confronting.
"It's a very difficult thing for me because, you know, I love these kids. I love kids. I have kids and grandkids. And I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and, you know, the law is rough," Trump said.
"I'm not talking about new laws. I'm talking the existing law, is very rough," he added. "It's very, very rough."