Washington: President Donald Trump said US homeland security officials will make a plea for a southern border wall in a White House meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday, adding that he was open to working on a path to legal status for young illegal immigrants known as Dreamers.
Trump invited Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to the White House for the border security briefing on the 12th day of a partial US government shutdown triggered by his demand for $5 billion in wall funding.
Department of Homeland Security officials will brief the congressional leaders, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, on the last day that Trump’s fellow Republicans will control both chambers of Congress.
The meeting is set for 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) in the White House Situation Room, generally used for high-level security concerns such as military planning.
Federal courts have blocked Trump’s effort to end a program begun in 2012 under Democratic former President Barack Obama that protected hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants brought into the United States as children from deportation and gave them work permits.
After a White House meeting on Sunday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Trump was receptive to Graham’s idea of a deal that might provide work permits to Dreamers in exchange for money for physical border barriers.
Trump’s administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court in November to allow the president to end Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
Speaking at the White House, Trump said on Wednesday he was sure the Supreme Court would side with him and that the administration would then be able to make a deal easily on the so-called Dreamers and the wall.
Democrats take charge of the House of Representatives from Trump’s fellow Republicans when the new 2019-2020 Congress convenes on Thursday. Led by presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they have scheduled votes on their first day in power on legislation that would end the shutdown without providing the wall funding Trump wants. Republicans retain control of the Senate.
“The Pelosi plan is a non-starter because it does not fund our homeland security or keep American families safe from human trafficking, drugs, and crime," Sanders said in a statement late on Tuesday.
Roughly a quarter of the federal government and 800,000 federal employees are affected by a shutdown, which was caused by a lapse in funding for the agencies.
The shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, was precipitated by Trump’s demand as part of any federal funding measure for $5 billion to help build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border that was a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign. The project’s total price tag is estimated at $23 billion.
It was unclear if Wednesday’s meeting, arranged by Trump on Tuesday, would lead to a breakthrough. Democrats oppose the wall and Trump’s funding demand.
Trump said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and border patrol officials will make a plea for a wall at the meeting.
Democrats sought to lower expectations for the gathering. A senior Democratic aide said, “It not a meeting, it is a briefing. We expect a one-sided, non-factual presentation. Expect Democrats to again have to correct the record in the meeting and afterward."
Prospects for the two-part Democratic spending package that will be voted upon in the House appear grim in the Senate. The measure sets up the first major battle of the new Congress between House Democrats led by Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has said Senate Republicans will not approve a spending measure Trump does not support.
The visit by Pelosi and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer would be their first to the White House since their sharp exchange with Trump in the Oval Office on Dec. 11 during which the president told them he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security." He has since blamed Democrats for the shutdown.
Trump made the border wall a key part of his presidential campaign and said Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has refused.