Donald Trump 'fairly close' to immigration deal with congressional leaders

President Donald Trump has said he is "fairly close" to a deal with congressional leaders to preserve protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants living illegally in America.

He declared Republican leaders are "very much on board" but pushed back against Democratic leaders' claims about a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative.

He also said his promised wall along the US-Mexico border would "come later" but would need to happen soon.

"We're working on a plan subject to getting massive border controls. We're working on a plan for DACA. People want to see that happen," Mr Trump said.

He added: "'I think we're fairly close but we have to get massive border security."

After he landed in Florida, he declared repeatedly: "If we don't have a wall, we're doing nothing."

Mr Trump, in a series of early morning tweets, disputed the characterisation of a private White House dinner on Wednesday night by his guests, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the top Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Mr Trump said there was no deal, despite a statement from Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer announcing a broad agreement.

On the Senate floor on Thursday morning, Mr Schumer insisted that both sides were in agreement and there was no dispute.

"If you listen to the president's comments this morning ... it is clear that what Leader Pelosi and I put out last night was exactly accurate," said Mr Schumer.

"We have reached an understanding on this issue. We have to work out details, and we can work together on a border security package with the White House and get DACA on the floor quickly."

Indeed, in the face of ferocious pushback from conservative lawmakers and media outlets including Breitbart, run by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, the White House appeared focused more on shaping presentation of the agreement, than on denying it outright.

"By no means was any deal ever reached," White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president travelled to Florida. "This is something that Congress needs to work on."

But Breitbart was already labelling Mr Trump "Amnesty Don".

"The Trump administration will not be discussing amnesty," Ms Walters said.

The president wants "a responsible path forward in immigration reform. That could include legal citizenship over a period of time. But absolutely by no means will this White House discuss amnesty," she said, although most conservatives would consider "legal citizenship over a period of time" to meet the definition of amnesty.

The House's foremost immigration hard-liner, Steve King of Iowa, addressed Mr Trump over Twitter, writing that if the reports were true, "Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible."

Mr Schumer and Ms Pelosi said in a statement that the details on border security needed to be negotiated, that both sides agreed "the wall would not be any part of this agreement" and that Mr Trump said he would pursue the wall later.

Soon after, Mr Trump appeared to confirm that approach. "The wall will come later, we're right now renovating large sections of wall, massive sections, making it brand new," he told reporters before his Florida trip.

He also said Republican congressional leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky favoured his approach on the immigration programme.

"Ryan and McConnell agree with us on DACA," Trump said, adding that he had spoken to them by telephone.

Mr Ryan, meanwhile, was adamant after speaking to Mr Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that no agreement had been reached.

"The president wasn't negotiating a deal last night. The president was talking with Democratic leaders to get their perspectives," he told reporters on Capitol Hill.

AP


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