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Trump envisions bill allowing many

immigrants to stay in US

Trump may compromise on immigration bill 02:58

By Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and Tal Kopan, CNN-Wed March 1,


(CNN)President Donald Trump wants to pass an immigration

reform bill that could grant legal status to millions of
undocumented immigrants living in the US.

"The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is

compromise on both sides," Trump told reporters Tuesday at the
White House.
The President is eager to pass a compromise immigration bill in
his first term that would stop short of granting a path to
citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, but would
allow undocumented immigrants who aren't serious or violent
criminals to live, work and pay taxes in the US without fear of
deportation, a senior administration official said.

Trump included the idea of a compromise in his address to a Joint

Session of Congress on Tuesday night.

"I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as

long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and
wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation's security and to
restore respect for our laws," Trump told lawmakers. "If we are
guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe
Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an
outcome that has eluded our country for decades."

But Trump also signaled he stands behind some of his most

controversial pledges from the campaign cycle, including the
"extreme vetting" behind his travel ban that was blocked by the
courts, and a call to cut back on low-skilled workers entering the
country with a "merit-based" immigration system.

A path to citizenship for those in the country illegally would not be

part of Trump's vision for this deal, with the possible exception of
"Dreamers" -- those brought into the US illegally as children.

News of the President's support for a comprehensive reform of the

US's immigration system fell against a backdrop of increasingly
aggressive actions by immigration authorities across the US, who
under Trump's administration have found new freedom to deport
undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of a
serious crime -- the bar they were told to abide by under
President Barack Obama's tenure.
But Trump's new apparent desire to grant legal status to many
undocumented immigrants living in the US also marks a startling
reversal from the positions he championed during his campaign
for president. Trump focused on the need to build a wall along the
US-Mexico border, and for much of his campaign, called for
deporting all estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants
living in the US. The closest he came to calling for a path to
legalization for undocumented immigrants was in his calls to allow
the "good ones" who had been deported to reenter the US
through an expedited, legal process.

Democrats on the Hill may be open to working with the

administration on a compromise, sources said -- but healthy
skepticism remained about Trump's true intentions on Tuesday
and lawmakers signaled they'd want to see more from the
President, and less aggressive immigration enforcement actions,
before they believed him.

Tackling immigration reform would be another massive legislative

endeavor, piling on top of Trump's already ambitious goals of
repealing and replacing Obamacare and passing a tax reform

It would perhaps be the ultimate test of Trump's deal-making

credentials, which he touted daily on the campaign trail.

Supporting a pathway to legalization for millions of

undocumented immigrants could roil his base of supporters, many
of whom flocked to Trump early on due to his controversial and
hardline position on immigration.

But the official said Trump does not see the bill as something that
would necessarily upset Trump's base, stressing that there would
need to be "a softening on both sides."

"It has to be a negotiation," the official said, arguing that the bill
theoretically could make people on both the "far right" and "far
left" happy -- and it's a negotiation the President believes he
could successfully broker, the official said.

The President believes that the nation is now in a position where it

can pass immigration legislation after decades of failed efforts,
and he believes the country is "exhausted."

"There's got to be a coming together," the official said.

In private, immigration activists on both sides of the spectrum

believe that compromises can be made during Trump's tenure,
although the inclusion of a "pathway to citizenship" for the
millions of people living in the US illegally remains a tough
sticking point.

"People would be willing to discuss it," one senior Democratic Hill

aide who works on immigration issues said.

For Democrats, "there is openness to discussing options that may

fall short of a full path to citizenship," the aide added.
Still, healthy skepticism remains about whether the White House
is being genuine.

"It's just hard to believe this President," the Democratic staffer

said. "He says things in one room to one group of people and then
the next day he does things that are the opposite."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump still has work
to do to gain Democrats' trust.
"He's got a lot to undo," Schumer said. "The immigrant
community is rightfully scared of what President Trump has done.
His executive order goes far beyond what anyone proposed.
People are cowering. It's going to hurt us economically. ... (The
administration doesn't) seem to know what they are doing. They
simply come up with these proposals that sound good and then
they can't implement them."

Schumer was echoed by fellow Democrat Oregon Sen. Ron

Wyden, who said Trump would have some walking back to do.

"I would have to see the details of any proposal," Wyden said.
"Certainly if he is looking at something bipartisan, he's going to
have to walk back some of the statements that he has made time
after time after time, which in effect would say that there'd be a
lot of focus by immigration authorities like ICE on people who
have not committed any serious crimes."

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, mainly made up of

Democrats, released a statement in response to Trump's Tuesday
remarks, essentially welcoming him to the immigration reform
"We've been ready," said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham,
chairwoman of the caucus.

As always with immigration reform, the devil is in the details. In

2013, the Gang of Eight's immigration reform bill passed with
wide bipartisan support in the Senate only to die in the House,
where leadership did not move it forward.

Many of the compromises in that bill still enjoy wide support in

Washington, but the pathway to citizenship has remained toxic for
the Republican base, which labeled it "amnesty."

Trump has taken a hardline position on immigration -- with

charged rhetoric against illegal immigration throughout the

In the later stages of the campaign and after, he softened slightly,

signaling empathy toward Dreamers and saying that deportations
for some undocumented immigrants are not necessarily a priority.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the

President has been clear about his openness to conversations
about a compromise on immigration, but added the focus at the
moment is "border control" and "deporting criminals."

For both Democrats and Republicans, the sequencing matters

greatly in negotiating a compromise on immigration.
Some Republican lawmakers endorsed the idea of reform
compromises, but said they would like to see efforts to move
forward come in pieces. Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner
said there are areas of "common ground," but that it would have
to be done piecemeal.

"I think that's something I've been asking for for a very long
time," Gardner said. "I think we can find there is a way forward on
an immigration package that Democrats and Republican can
support. ... (But) the American people have expressed whether it's
through the Affordable Care Act or through the Gang of Eight bill
that they would rather see a series of package of bills that
Congress can use to gain the trust of the American people as we
implement the reform."

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the members of the

2013 Gang of Eight who suffered politically for his participation,
said that he thinks legalization is better than the status quo,
though he originally supported a pathway to citizenship in his bill.

"I personally have always believed that it's not a good idea to
have millions of people in your country that can never become
citizens but I certainly think legalization is better than what they
have now," Rubio said. "And if that's what we need to do to get
progress, I would be able to accept that."

But he also said the path forward exists through smaller pieces.

"Immigration reform is something most people are in favor of,"

Rubio said. "It's what's in that immigration reform that can quickly
become controversial. So we'll see. It will take a lot of work. It's a
tough issue. And I truly believe it has to be done in multiple steps,
piecemeal approach."

Other Republicans didn't want to discuss the possibility until

border security was addressed.

"It's an important discussion and one we've been trying to resolve

for many years now, so I welcome the opportunity to have that
discussion," said No. 2 Senate Republican and Texan John Cornyn.
"For my own part, I believe we need to regain the public's
confidence that we're actually serious about enforcing the law
and securing the border, and to me those are the most important

Republicans have for years insisted they would be open to

immigration reform -- if border security and enforcement of
existing laws come first. They blamed President Barack Obama for
not enforcing laws, and said they did not trust him enough to
send him any bill that would be lenient toward undocumented
immigrants, alleging he would ignore any enforcement provisions
of such a bill.

Now, with Trump as president, the winds have shifted and that
argument is off the table, since Trump has made enforcing
immigration laws on the books that have been unused for years a
priority in his first month as President.

But Democrats are also concerned about sequencing, and while

they would agree to certain enhanced enforcement and border-
security measures, they are concerned that if they agree to too
much compromise, Republicans will never return to working out
something to give security to the undocumented immigrants
living in the US peacefully who have often have families that are
American citizens.

The difficulty has extended even to the narrow BRIDGE Act,

proposed by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
and Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, which would give the
undocumented Dreamers currently protected by Obama
administration policies formal reprieve from deportations, should
the policy be ended by the Trump administration.

The legislation enjoys generally wide support among lawmakers

and could likely have the votes to pass Congress, but leadership
has been hesitant to move the bill forward, with Republicans
concerned that it would be viewed by their base as too lenient
and Democrats concerned that agreeing to pass the BRIDGE Act
along with another compromise would mean other undocumented
immigrants would not be given any such relief in the future.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond, Manu Raju, Jim Acosta, Ted Barrett,

Lauren Fox and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.
Posted by Thavam