After Reaching Budget Deal, Democrats Look To Trump On DREAM Act

Sep 8, 2017
Originally published on September 8, 2017 5:41 pm
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We're going to look more closely now at the opening Democrats see after President Trump sided with them this week. Trump overruled leaders in his own party, even members of his own cabinet to back a plan pushed by Democrats. That plan pairs hurricane relief aid with a shorter-term hike in the debt ceiling and also a measure to keep the government running. NPR's Geoff Bennett reports with that, Democrats think they can now help young immigrants.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Not long after President Trump decided to scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and ask Congress to find a replacement, he said this to reporters Wednesday aboard Air Force One.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I. And I said if we can get something to happen, we're going to sign it, and we're going to make it - make a lot of happy people.

BENNETT: Chuck and Nancy would of course be Democrats - Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The two of them along with other lawmakers Democrat and Republican have tried and failed for more than a decade to enshrine protections for DACA recipients, also known as DREAMers, into law. Pelosi now sees perhaps an unlikely ally in President Trump.

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NANCY PELOSI: I'm hoping, and I'm praying that the president really cares about the DREAMers or knows that he should care about the DREAMers.

BENNETT: There are about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the country by their parents who received work permits, driver's licenses and other protections under the DACA program. Their fate now rests on the ability of Congress to finally pass the DREAM Act, says Lynn Tramonte with the integration advocacy group America's Voice.

LYNN TRAMONTE: Well, it's no question. They have to pass the DREAM Act. He's taking away the ability for young people who grew up in this country to keep their jobs, keep their cars and support their families.

BENNETT: The DREAM Act has languished in Congress since it was originally introduced in 2001. At her weekly press conference, Pelosi said Trump indicated he would support it in the same Oval Office meeting where he accepted Democrats' budget offer.

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PELOSI: We made it very clear in the course of the conversation that we would - the priority was to pass the DREAM Act, that we wanted to do it. And obviously it has to be bipartisan. The president said he would - he supports that, he would sign it.

BENNETT: In order for the president to sign it, GOP leaders who control both houses of Congress would first need to agree to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. The most likely path seems to be for Democrats to attach it to that must-pass budget legislation when it comes up again in December. House Speaker Paul Ryan says border security must be a part of any compromise.

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PAUL RYAN: We need to control our borders while we deal with this problem so that we don't have the same problem 10 years from now. That's just perfectly reasonable.

BENNETT: Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who's a champion of the DREAM Act, says he's OK with some provisions for beefed-up border security, but he says there are limits.

DICK DURBIN: Democrats are not going to build a 2,200-mile wall. We're not going to eliminate sanctuary cities, and we're not going to make it easier to deport the parents of these DREAMers. Now, if the president or others want to sit down and talk based on that, I'd be glad to come up to the table.

BENNETT: Durbin sounds hopeful about passing legislation that has failed for 16 years.

DURBIN: When it comes to DACA and DREAM, we have 76 percent approval across the United States. As people are considering the consequences of repealing it and deporting these young people, I really think we have an opportunity here - one we haven't had in the whole time since I introduced it - to pass this on a bipartisan basis.

BENNETT: Still, there's a long list of issues that have broad bipartisan support that haven't become law. Geoff Bennett, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.