U.S. President Donald Trump warned Republican lawmakers Thursday against labeling hundreds of thousands of young immigrants facing deportation as "Dreamers," as their advocates call them while trying to keep him from returning them to their native countries.
"Some people call it Dreamers. It's not Dreamers. Don't fall into that trap," Trump told the Republicans at a political party retreat at a West Virginia resort. "We have dreamers in this country, too. We can't forget our dreamers."
The term Dreamers is derived from the DREAM Act, legislation that would have protected young immigrants brought to this country as children from deportation but was not passed by Congress. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an administrative program implemented under former President Barack Obama, provides many of the same protections and authorizes the young immigrants to work in the United States.
Trump last year rescinded DACA but gave Congress until March 5 to weigh in on the issue. He has proposed a 10- to 12-year track to citizenship for about 1.8 million younger immigrants who have DACA protection or are eligible for its guarantees.
The president said Thursday that he hoped Congress would reach an agreement on legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries, but he accused Democrats of politicizing contentious immigration issues while not seriously trying to resolve them.
"We want to take care of DACA and I hope we will," Trump said. "We need the support of the Democrats in order to do it, and they might not want to do it. They talk like they do, but ... we're going to find out very soon. To get it done, we'll all have to make some compromises along the way. We have to be willing to give a little in order for our country to gain a whole lot."
'Sanity and common sense'
Trump, as he did in his State of the Union address earlier in the week, called for the Republicans to adopt his immigration reform plans. His proposals include protection of the young immigrants who years ago were brought illegally into the country by their parents; construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico to thwart more illegal migration; an end to a lottery for immigration applicants; and stricter family migration policies.
"What the American people are pleading for is sanity and common sense in our immigration system," Trump said.
He said Democrats "want to use [immigration] as an election issue." But he contended that with his proposal, which he called a compromise, "it's an election issue that will go to our benefit, not their benefit."
Earlier in the day, Trump said in a Twitter comment, "March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Democrats are doing nothing about DACA. They Resist, Blame, Complain and Obstruct -- and do nothing. Start pushing Nancy Pelosi and the Dems to work out a DACA fix, NOW!" Pelosi is the House Democratic leader.
Trump urged the Republicans to "pass immigration reform that protects our country, defends our borders and modernizes our immigration rules to serve the needs of American workers and of American families. We want an immigration policy that's fair, equitable, that's going to protect our people."
Battle at the polls
He said that if Democrats do not agree to negotiate immigration reforms, then Republicans need to elect more of their party members to increase the size of the majorities they now have in the Senate and House of Representatives.
The immigration debate is linked to discussions between Congress and the White House about funding for government agencies, with a current stopgap spending measure expiring on February 9. The immigration issue was at the center of a funding dispute that led last month to a three-day partial shutdown of government agencies.