Pelosi says she still sees Trump as potential ally on immigration

LEESBURG, Va. — Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCutting tariffs is better than cutting payroll taxes to boost the economy Pelosi speaks with Israeli president after Trump controversy In debate over internet speech law, pay attention to whose voices are ignored MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday that comprehensive immigration reform is "inevitable," and left open the possibility that it may still be possible under President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE.

"It's complicated, but it isn't hard to do if you have good intentions," Pelosi said during the Democrats' annual issues conference at a golf resort in Northern Virginia.

"And I'm not giving up on the president on this," she added. "I still say to him, 'We've got to have comprehensive immigration reform.' "

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The sides have a long way to go to bridge the numerous disagreements that divide them on the hot-button issue of immigration. Trump centered his 2016 campaign on a hard-line approach to enforcement, and the 35-day government shutdown that launched the new Congress this year was the result of his demand for billions of dollars for a border wall — a non-starter with Democrats.

Just this week, Trump pushed out the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role MORE, over frustrations that she wasn't aggressive enough in deflecting the waves of migrants arriving at the southwest border. Most of those migrants are asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America, and the growing influx has stretched the nation's border security infrastructure to new limits. Last month, the head of Customs and Border Protection said his agency has reached “the breaking point."

Pelosi on Thursday noted that Democrats secured new funds for immigration judges and other border measures in the spending bill signed by Trump in February that ultimately reopened the government. But she accused the president of failing to tap those funds for their intended purpose.

"He has not utilized what is in that, specifically, [for] the border," she said.

Yet Pelosi also warned that the only long-term solution to the border crisis is the adoption of a comprehensive immigration reform package, like the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in 2013.

"We keep saying to the Republicans, 'Let's do that,' but it has to be in a bipartisan way," she said. "We think that there's opportunity to do that."

House Democrats have not introduced such a bill this year, pushing instead for piecemeal immigration reforms that include new protections for "Dreamers" and those under temporary protected status. And Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled Senate have shown little interest in moving on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, instead joining Trump in urging more funding for the border wall as a first order of business.

Trump, meanwhile, has only heightened his attacks on immigrants as the border crisis has worsened in recent weeks.

"Our Country is FULL," he tweeted over the weekend.

Pelosi on Thursday hammered the president for that remark, arguing that the country's economic viability hinges on a healthy influx of new arrivals.

"The constant reinvigoration of America depends on us having comprehensive immigration reform where we respect the value of newcomers to our country," she said.

"When the president said — what did he say? — 'We don't have no room?' My god, I thought it was Mary and Joseph at Christmas. We have no room? There is no room in the inn? What is this?

"Of course there's room, and there's need," she said.

Pelosi said she's hoping public pressure will force Republicans to consider a comprehensive immigration reform bill, an idea that hasn't been adopted into law since the Reagan administration.

She also thinks the Democrats' efforts to improve the financial security of middle-class workers will bring opponents of such reforms to reconsider.

"The president is a fearmonger. He fueled the flame of insecurity about globalization, about immigration and all that in the campaign. But if the economy is better for many of these people, I think that that fear tactic would be diminished," she said.

"This has to happen," Pelosi added. "It's inevitable."

Updated at 11:57 a.m.