President Donald Trump addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the White House on Wednesday. Some mayors skipped the meeting after the Trump administration threatened to withhold funding from local governments that they claimed are not following immigration laws. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 24 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he is open to offering recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program a pathway to citizenship.
"We're going to morph into it. It's going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years," Trump told reporters.
DACA, the program that gives undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children temporary visas to live and work in the country, is set to expire on March 5, putting more than 800,000 people at risk of deportation.
Trump, who has decided not to renew the program created by executive order under President Barack Obama, told DACA recipients "not to worry about it."
"We're going to solve the problem. Now, it's up to the Democrats, but they should not be concerned," Trump said.
Trump's openness to a pathway to citizenship was praised by members of both parties on the frontlines of the immigration deal negotiations.
"I truly appreciate President Trump making it clear that he supports a path to citizenship for DACA recipients," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement. "This will greatly help the Senate efforts to craft a proposal which President Trump can sign into law."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., tweeted a link to a story about Trump's DACA comments, adding, "The President is headed in the right direction here."
In another sign that a Senate consensus on immigration could be on the horizon, more than 30 senators, including nine Republicans, met before Trump's comments to discuss aspects of a potential deal.
"It shows there's a lot of interest on their side in getting a deal done," a Democrat said told The Hill.
The new developments Wednesday follow several tumultuous days that including a government shutdown over the Senate's inability to make a DACA deal.
Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York, who led the shutdown to save DACA, eventually agreed to reopen the government on the condition that the chamber would vote on immigration in the coming weeks.
Lawmakers have been involved in negotiations to reach a compromise on funding the wall along the Mexico border in exchange for extended protections against deportations for immigrants covered under DACA, known as "Dreamers." Trump said last year he would end the DACA program unless it was reformed by Congress.
Schumer told the White House Tuesday, though, that he was withdrawing a Democratic offer to support building the U.S.-Mexico border wall with $1.6 billion in construction funding.
"The thought was that we could come to an agreement that afternoon, the president would announce his support, and the Senate and the House would get it done and it would be on the president's desk," Schumer said Tuesday.
"He didn't do that. So we're going to have to start on a new basis and so the wall offer is off the table."
Schumer first made the offer on Friday during a meeting with Trump at the White House while negotiations were occurring to avoid a government shutdown.
"It was the first thing the president and I talked about," Schumer said.
Congress ultimately passed a short-term funding resolution.
On Tuesday night, Trump taunted Schumer for his withdrawal.
"Cryin' Chuck Schumer fully understands, especially after his humiliating defeat, that if there is no Wall, there is no DACA. We must have safety and security, together with a strong Military, for our great people!" Trump tweeted.
Schumer and Trump have clashed before. In November, he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi scrapped a meeting at the White House with the president because of a tweet Trump had posted.
"Meeting with 'Chuck and Nancy' today about keeping government open and working," the tweet read. "Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don't see a deal!"
Most Democrats and some Republicans oppose the border wall.
Last week, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told lawmakers, "candidates say things during the campaign that are not informed" when discussing the border wall.
In an apparent response to Kelly, Trump tweeted that the plans for the wall hadn't changed since his 2016 presidential campaign and that Mexico would still pay for the border wall "directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement."
"The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it. Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water," Trump wrote.