President Donald Trump speaks alongside Senate Minority Leader Richard Durbin of Illinois (L) and House Minority Leader Steny Hoye of Maryland during a bipartisan congressional meeting Tuesday on immigration in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 9 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he wants to sign a "bill of love" that would protect young immigrants in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while also heightening security along the southern U.S. border.
Trump met with 15 Republicans and 10 Democrats at the White House. After about one hour in front of cameras and the media, they went into closed session, where both parties agreed to negotiate on four keys area of immigration, including protection for the so-called Dreamers who benefit from the Obama-era DACA program, according to the White House.
"President Donald J. Trump just concluded a successful bipartisan and bicameral meeting on immigration reform," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "During the closed-door portion of the meeting, they reached an agreement to negotiate legislation that accomplishes critically needed reforms in four high-priority areas: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy."
On Tuesday night, Trump clarified any uncertain whether funding for the wall was part of border security. "As I made very clear today, our country needs the security of the Wall on the Southern Border, which must be part of any DACA approval," Trump posted on Twitter.
Earlier, the president expressed hope that several aspects of immigration could be agreed to by Democrats and Republicans.
"I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital because it should be a bipartisan bill," the president said in the Cabinet Room. "It should be a bill of love. Truly. It should be a bill of love. But it also has to be a bill where we're able to secure our border. Drugs are pouring into our country at a record pace. A lot of people coming in that we can't have."
The DACA program, implemented under former President Barack Obama, expires March 5 under an executive order from Trump. Then, beneficiaries who entered the country as young children risk being deported.
"You folks are going to have to come up with a solution," Trump said. "And if you do, I will sign that solution."
The Senate needs 60 votes to pass legislation and with only 51 Republicans, they need help from Democrats, who are opposed to spending money on a border wall.
The Trump administration wants Congress to approve nearly $18 billion over the next decade for construction of a border wall with Mexico in the southwestern United States. It would include 316 miles of new fencing and 407 miles of reinforced fencing, according to government documents.
"We don't need a 2,000-mile wall," he said. "We don't need a wall where you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting it, but we need a wall for a fairly good portion."
Trump said a border wall can be built "in one year, and we can build it for much less money than what they're talking about. There is no reason to ever mention seven years again, please."
And the president said total immigration reform doesn't need to be tackled right away.
"A clean DACA bill to me is to take care of the 800,000 people," he said. "We take care of that, and we also take care of security. And then we can go to comprehensive [immigration reform] later on."
Democrats wants to include DACA reform in a spending bill that Congress needs to approve by Jan. 19 to prevent a government shutdown.
"We want to have a DACA compromise," House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told reporters. "We want to make sure the DACA problem is solved.
"We want to make sure that we have the right kind of interior and border enforcement so that we don't have another DACA problem down the road."
During the meeting, Trump sat between two Democrats -- Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
"We have something in common: We'd like to see this get done," Trump said.
"Well, that was a unique meeting," Durbin told reporters on the West Wing driveway.
He said he left the meeting with a "positive" outlook and a greater "desire to get this done."
Trump described an immigration bill to be introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia as a "good starting point." But it includes conservative priorities opposed by Democrats, including scrapping the visa-lottery program and chain migration, which allows immigrants with citizenship to petition to bring relatives to the country.
Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., are planning to bring a bipartisan bill to Congress that only deals with allowing participants of the DACA program to stay in the country before a Jan. 19 government funding deadline.
"Of the reasonable people that are ultimately going to get this deal done, nobody is talking about deporting these kids to countries they've never known," Hurd told the San Antonio Express-News.