Immigration hawk: Trump backs 'limited amnesty' for illegal immigrants

Immigration hawk: Trump backs 'limited amnesty' for illegal immigrants
© Greg Nash

A top immigration hard-liner said Monday he thinks Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE’s positions on immigration are like Jell-O and accused the president of backing “limited amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingNebraska Democratic Party Chair: Rural vote should be 'bedrock' of party With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response Steve King challenger: 2020 Democrats have 'huge' opportunity to win over rural America MORE (R-Iowa), who advised Trump on immigration issues during the 2016 campaign, said he has grown frustrated by Trump’s failed promises to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico and end protections for young immigrants enrolled in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“We finally elected a president who called for the end of amnesty and he was going to end DACA at noon on Jan. 20, 2017, and we all expected that would happen without fanfare. Instead, we learned that permits were being issued. Then, he served [DACA] up as a bargaining chip” to build the wall, King told The Hill in an interview in the Capitol.

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“When he sent out his tweet Sept. 5 that he was going to end DACA, that tweet was pretty clear: Get your act together, make your arrangements. It’s over,” King went on. “Then the next day, it seemed that things changed a little bit and he opened the door to negotiation” with Democratic leaders Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSekulow indicates White House not interested in motion to dismiss impeachment articles Overnight Health Care: Trump restores funding for Texas program that bars Planned Parenthood | Trump to attend March for Life | PhRMA spent record on 2019 lobbying Key House committee chairman to meet with Mnuchin on infrastructure next week MORE (Calif.).

“Now he’s for some sort of a DACA fix. And he has transformed himself as someone who’s going to restore the rule of law to the guy who’s essentially leading with a limited amnesty and trying to get enforcement on the other side of that. I said, why would you negotiate against yourself?" King said.

“He had a mandate to end DACA; he had a mandate to build the wall, a mandate to end sanctuary cities, a mandate to pass Kate’s Law,” King continued. “In fact, I actually wrote much of his first statement on immigration when he announced his candidacy.”

“So you’re saying the president has been waffling on the issue of immigration?” a reporter asked King.

“He knows that,” replied King, who spoke to Trump two weeks ago. “I’ve been talking to him about that. ... He says, ‘I’ve got to get this passed 500 people,’ meaning 535 lawmakers, so he’s saying he’s adjusting to the political reality. I say stand on principle.”

“It’s stunning to me that you can stand on principle, and when pragmatism kicks in, it trumps principle,” King said. “Where I live, in my ideological world, it’s the exact opposite.”

King and other immigration hawks are wary of a deal struck between Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum No. 2 GOP leader eyes Wednesday of next week for possible votes on witnesses MORE (R-Ky.) to reopen the federal government after a three-day shutdown.

McConnell has pledged to bring a bipartisan immigration bill to the floor by Feb. 8 that would shield from deportation hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients.

A bipartisan plan pitched by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Senator-jurors who may not be impartial? Remove them for cause Broad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa MORE (R-S.C.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum Nadler gets under GOP's skin Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on MORE (D-Ill.) would provide a path to citizenship for the young immigrants. But King is vehemently opposed to offering legal status to DACA recipients.

King’s criticism of Trump’s handling of the immigration issue echoed that of Schumer, who lambasted the president over the weekend as an unreliable negotiating partner who keeps changing his position.

“Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jell-O,” Schumer said amid talks to fund the government.