President Donald Trump said Friday that “Dreamers,” illegal immigrants who have benefitted from former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, should “rest easy” about his administration’s approach to immigration reform.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the president said the White House is “not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals.”
“That is our policy,” Trump said.
The topic came up as the Trump administration faces a lawsuit from a 23-year-old “Dreamer” who was recently deported to Mexico despite the fact that DACA granted him protected status until 2018.
While Trump has been telegraphing this shifting position on “Dreamers” since he assumed the presidency, he sang an entirely different tune when he was candidate Trump.
When he first announced his presidential campaign in June 2015, Trump promised to “immediately terminate President [Barack] Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration.” One of those executive orders was the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which Obama signed in June 2012.
Trump doubled down on that during an August 2016 speech on immigration, telling supporters: “We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties, in which he defied federal law and the Constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants.”
But on Jan. 18, just two days before becoming president, Trump began softening his position. When asked by Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt how he plans to address immigration issues, he told her his plan would have “a lot of heart,” adding that being a “Dreamer” is a “very tough situation.”
“But I think they’re going to end up being very happy,” he told Earhardt. “We’re going to have great people coming into our country, people that love our country.”
Then in February, when he held an extremely contentious news conference from the White House, Trump described DACA as “a very, very difficult subject for me.”
Here’s what he told reporters at the time:
DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me. ... You have these incredible kids, in many cases not in all cases. In some of the cases they’re having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug dealers too. ... I have to deal with a lot of politicians — don’t forget — and I have to convince them that what I’m saying is right. And I appreciate your understanding on that. The DACA situation is a very difficult thing for me as I love these kids, I love kids, I have kids and grand kids and I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and, you know, the law is rough. It’s rough, very very rough.
And in March, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly tried to ease concerns some Democrats have about DACA. He reportedly told them, “I’m the best thing that happened to DACA. ... It is still on the books.”
But as for the situation regarding Juan Manuel Montes, the deported “Dreamer,” Trump said that case is “a little different than the Dreamer case,” the AP reported. The president didn’t offer any explanation for that conclusion.
According to Politico’s report, Montes lost his DACA status because he left the U.S. without seeking prior approval, which is a violation of the terms of the program.
Regardless of what happens with DACA, though, the president seems committed to his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — another one of Trump’s long-held promises. Kelly, standing alongside Attorney General Jeff Sessions, told Fox News on Thursday that construction of the perimeter could begin as soon as this summer.
“I think by late spring, early summer, we'll have some prototypes and then we'll be able to move forward by into the summer,” he said. “We're going to get at it as quick as we can.”
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told the AP that Congress’ spending bill, which is facing an April 28 deadline in order to avert a government shutdown, must include funding for the border wall.
He said “elections have consequences” and that “we want wall funding” as part of the spending package. That hard-line position will surely cause headaches for lawmakers seeking to sidestep a shutdown at the end of the month.
“We want wall funding. We want [immigration] agents. Those are our priorities,” Mulvaney said. “We know there are a lot of people on the Hill, especially in the Democratic Party, who don't like the wall, but they lost the election.
“The president should, I think, at least have the opportunity to fund one of his highest priorities in the first funding bill under his administration,” he continued.
On the campaign trail, it should be noted, Trump consistently and vehemently promised Mexico would pay for the border wall.