Trump says he’s open to citizenship path for DACA recipients

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President Trump on Wednesday said he is open to offering young immigrants a pathway to citizenship over 10-12 years, as long as he gets billions of dollars to pay for a border wall and other security measures.  

Under his forthcoming immigration plan, which will be released Monday, Trump told reporters that protections for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would “morph into” citizenship over that period. 

“We’re going to morph into it. It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years,” he said. 

A senior administration official later clarified that citizenship is a “discussion point” in the plan and that young immigrants would have to meet certain conditions in order to gain it. 

The official added the offer only applies to the nearly 690,000 immigrants who benefit from the Obama-era DACA program that Trump cancelled last fall. Those people are allowed to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.  

In exchange, Trump is seeking $25 billion to build his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, in addition to $5 billion in other border security measures.

Trump also wants to limit family-based immigration and end or overhaul the diversity visa lottery, the White House said earlier Wednesday

The president sought to reassure DACA recipients, whose fate has been left in limbo by his decision to scrap the program. 

“Tell them not to worry about it,” Trump said. “We’re going to solve the problem. Now, it’s up to the Democrats, but they should not be concerned.”

Trump suggested he might extend the March 5 deadline when DACA expires if a deal is not reached before then, saying “I certainly have the right to do that, if I want.”

Trump made the comments during an impromptu question-and-answer session with reporters, who were meeting with other administration officials in the West Wing.

The president quipped that he wants a deal when he returns from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, over the weekend. 

White House chief of staff John Kelly is scrapping plans to travel to Switzerland to stay back and work on immigration. 

The comments are Trump’s clearest to date on what he wants in an immigration deal, and come amid complaints from Democrats and Republicans that Trump has been unclear in his demands. 

The trade-off floated by Trump — wall funding in exchange for DACA protections — sounds similar to the deal that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered him last week, before the three-day government shutdown.

Schumer portrayed the $25 billion offer of wall funding as a major concession, but on Tuesday declared that money is now “off the table.” 

The White House is expected to release an immigration “framework” early next week in a effort to jump-start stalled immigration talks on Capitol Hill. 

Lawmakers have until Feb. 8 to pass a government funding bill, but Democrats have said they might not support it unless DACA is addressed. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been working to reach a bipartisan deal on immigration, hailed Trump’s remarks as a breakthrough.

“This statement represents presidential leadership on immigration that will allow us to solve a difficult problem. I truly appreciate President Trump making it clear that he supports a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. This will greatly help the Senate efforts to craft a proposal which President Trump can sign into law.

“With this strong statement by President Trump, I have never felt better about our chances of finding a solution on immigration.”

The White House, however, has repeatedly ruled out a bipartisan proposal co-authored by Graham as unacceptable to the president.   

– This story was updated at 7:13 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump John Kelly Lindsey Graham

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