If President Donald Trump was hoping Democrats would agree to fund his border wall proposal for a short-term extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program that is already being kept afloat by the courts, he will be disappointed.
“Should we give a border wall for nothing? No, I don’t think so,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.
The California Democrat told reporters during her weekly press conference that “there is not a whole lot of reason” to negotiate on something that is already covered by federal court decisions — a reference to a temporary extension of the DACA program Trump had tried to end effective March 5.
Two federal district judges blocked the Trump administration’s plans to shut down the DACA program, ruling that the government’s reasons for ending it were arbitrary and capricious, and therefore unlawful.
The Trump administration appealed one of those rulings to the Supreme Court in a rare step to speed up the case, but the justices declined a chance to bypass the lower courts. The appeals are expected to take months.
The case appears destined to land again at the Supreme Court and a final decision from the justices might not come until 2019. Democrats are hoping they will be in control of the House next year and in a better position to negotiate a permanent DACA deal.
Some news reports on Wednesday suggested Trump had told Republican leaders he would be open to a short-term extension of DACA as part of the upcoming fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill in exchange for wall funding.
But with the courts keeping DACA running for the foreseeable future, Pelosi suggested that is an empty offer.
“What would be our motivation?” she said.
White House backed off
Pelosi also noted that the White House has already backed off the offer, which Republicans also largely rejected.
Shortly after news broke of Trump’s alleged openness to a short-term DACA deal for wall funding, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said the president actually opposes the idea.
“As a result of the [budget] caps deal, the routine appropriations process should yield wall funding in the omnibus,” Shah said in a statement. “Securing the border is one of the most vital functions of government and is a core part of any routine funding bill.”
Democrats vehemently oppose Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico. They had been open to some wall funding in exchange for permanent protections for DACA recipients and other so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, but short of that are unlikely to make major concessions on the wall.
Pelosi poked fun of the border wall prototypes Trump showed off during a visit to California this week.
“I mean really in a civilized society, we’d do something like that?” she said. “As obnoxious as it is, I mean that’s a community there with a border running through it. … A wall that big separating people. I guess I saw too many walls.”
Omnibus still has issues
Although DACA and the wall funding are seeming less likely to end up as part of the omnibus, there are still other immigration-related issues the two parties have to resolve.
“They want to have enhanced internal enforcement that really goes against the values of our country in my view,” Pelosi said.
“That’s why we want them to come back with a global counter-proposal,” she added. “We have just said, ‘Let’s just do this clean. Take out the position pills, let’s just do what the appropriators negotiated in terms of money.’ There are a few more things to be settled, but not much. [Republicans] came back with something that still had the poison pills and the rest and hadn’t addressed some of the concerns we had. So we’re waiting for that global proposal.”
The omnibus negotiations are dragging out far longer than appropriators and congressional leaders had hoped, and they’re quickly backing up to the March 23 government funding deadline.
Pelosi said congressional Republicans have blamed the delay on not knowing what Trump wants and predicted they won’t post the omnibus text until early next week.
“They don’t like to post it over the weekend because then their members see it,” she said.
Todd Ruger and John T. Bennett contributed to this report.