WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking a shutdown solution, President Donald Trump was expected to announce Saturday that in exchange for money for his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall he was open to trading temporary protections for young people brought to America illegally as children. But it was not clear the offer would trigger a breakthrough, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the anticipated proposals as a “non-starter.”
Trump planned a speech from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room at 4 p.m. EST. His emerging proposal was confirmed by three people familiar with his thinking. They were not authorized to publicly discuss the plans before his remarks and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump was expected to offer support for bipartisan legislation, known as the Bridge Act, that would extend protection to some 700,000 young immigrants already in an Obama-era program shielding them from deportation, said one of the people. The president also planned to include protections for those with temporary protected status after fleeing countries affected by natural disasters or violence.
Trump, however, is known to change his mind and could decide on another course. His refusal to sign spending bills without the $5.7 billion he is demanding to start constructing the border wall prompted the shutdown.
“We need the help and the backup of a wall,” the president said earlier Saturday. In an apparent attempt to demonstrate that he is not against legal immigration, Trump held a naturalization ceremony in the Oval Office just before his speech.
Pelosi fired back before Trump’s remarks, describing the expected deal as a “a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives.” She said of the proposals, “Taken together, they are a non-starter.”
Democrats are criticizing the expected proposal because it didn’t seem to be a permanent solution for “Dreamers” or TPS recipients and because it includes money for the wall, which the party strongly opposes. Democrats also want Trump to reopen government before talks can start.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior aide, Jared Kushner, has led the work on the proposals, said two of those people, as well as an additional Republican not authorized to speak publicly about the emerging approach. Some said Vice President Mike Pence and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were involved, too.
Unlike other legislation proposed to protect the young immigrants known as “dreamers,” the Bridge Act does not provide a path to citizenship. It would extend the protections provided by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, both for those currently enrolled and for those eligible to apply.
Democrats made their own move late Friday to break the impasse that has kept the government shut down for a record 29 days when they pledged to provide hundreds of millions of dollars more for border security.
It was unclear whether the developments, following days of clashes between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, represented serious steps toward resolving the partisan fight or instead were acts of political posturing.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have gone without paychecks, with many enduring financial hardship. Many public services are unavailable to Americans during the closure.
The White House has declined to provide details about what the president would announce. Trump was not expected to declare a national emergency, which he has said was an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.
“I think it’ll be an important statement,” Trump told reporters Saturday before traveling to an air base in Delaware to honor four Americans killed in a suicide bomb attack in Syria this week.
Whatever the White House proposes will be the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he gave an Oval Office address trying to make the public case for the border wall. Democrats have said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.
Pelosi, D-Calif., has also previously said that funding for the wall and legal protections for those immigrants known as “Dreamers” should not be linked.
Trump previously dismissed a deal involving those young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, saying he would prefer to see first whether the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program survived a court challenge.
On Friday, the Supreme Court took no action on the Trump administration’s request to decide by early summer whether Trump’s bid to end that program was legal, meaning it probably will survive at least another year.
But during a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump hinted at the possibility, saying he would consider working on the wall and DACA “simultaneously.”
Lawmakers have pitched similar compromises.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has spoken about a deal that would include $5 billion in wall funding coupled the Bridge Act and a fix for nearly 400,000 immigrants in the Temporary Protective Status program whose status has been jeopardized by the administration’s decision to roll back that program.
A previous attempt to reach a compromise that addressed the status of “Dreamers” broke down a year ago as a result of escalating White House demands.
Democrats are now proposing $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges, who currently face large backlogs processing cases, and $524 million to improve ports of entry in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona, a Democratic House aide said. The money would be added to spending bills, largely negotiated between the House and Senate, which the House plans to vote on next week.
In addition, Democrats were working toward adding money for more border security personnel and for sensors and other technology to a separate bill financing the Department of Homeland Security, but no funds for a wall or other physical barriers, the aide said.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the details publicly.
In a video posted on his Twitter feed late Friday, Trump said both sides should “take the politics out of it” and “get to work” to “make a deal.” But he also repeated his warnings, saying: “We have to secure our southern border. If we don’t do that, we’re a very, very sad and foolish lot.”
Few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration’s hard-line response overwhelm border resources. But critics say Trump has dramatically exaggerated the security risks and they argue that a wall would do little to solve existing problems.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller, Deb Riechmann, Kevin Freking, Jon Lemire, Matthew Daly, Andy Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick, Matt Lee, Lolita C. Baldor and Alan Fram contributed to this report.