(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday complicated negotiations over end-of-year spending legislation by rejecting the possibility of shielding certain immigrants from deportation -- setting up a likely clash with Democrats that could lead to a government shutdown.
Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers who met with him at the White House that he opposes any effort to include in the legislation deportation protections for 800,000 people, known as Dreamers, who entered the U.S. illegally as children, according to several who attended the meeting. Democratic leaders in both chambers have called for protections for Dreamers by the end of the year, and the spending bill is the most likely place to settle an otherwise complicated debate.
Immigration and several other divisive topics in Congress are hanging over talks on the spending legislation that’s needed to keep the government open after Dec. 8.
The president said he wants Congress to adopt separate border security legislation that includes an extension of the immigrant protections established under President Barack Obama known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
“Decoupling DACA from any year-end deal was a prime statement of the president,” said Senator David Perdue, a Georgia Republican and one of seven senators who met with Trump.
Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, said the lawmakers who met with the president plan to create an immigration-border security bill that can get the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate.
"What we’re really trying to do is make sure we marry up the treatment for DACA and the treatment for interior enforcement of border security that gets a significant squad of our conference,” Tillis said. “And then we start negotiating and working with the other side to get to 60 votes."
John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said immigration legislation could come early next year. He also said it’s possible the legislation could be attached to another measure instead of passing on its own.
Trump earlier agreed with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California to move a border security bill by year’s end, and pair it with legislation that would provide deportation protections for the young immigrants. The young immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. by their parents as children, would also see a pathway to citizenship under the deal with Democrats.
Schumer declined to comment Thursday on Trump’s GOP meeting. He said protections for the Dreamers could still clear Congress, and soon.
“We have a lot of Republican support for this bill and I think it’s going to do better than people think, no matter what Donald Trump says on any given day or another,” Schumer said.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a top advocate for the young immigrants, said Trump’s effort to detach the protections from the must-pass spending bill is a mistake.
“These kids are going to get tied down,” he said. “It’s terrible with them to have to live with that kind of uncertainty. We should deal with it now. We shouldn’t wait on it.”
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