More DACA Confusion: Trump Says No Citizenship For ‘Dreamers’

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Just hours after questioning why anyone would want to deport “good, educated and accomplished young people,” President Donald Trump said Thursday that beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should not be allowed to get U.S. citizenship.

Trump said a path to citizenship would not be part of an agreement to codify the DACA program, further muddling the picture about a potential bipartisan deal struck between Democratic leaders and the White House on Wednesday night.

“We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty,” Trump told reporters before traveling to Florida to survey hurricane damage, reports MSNBC. “We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.”

Those two goals are not mutually exclusive, but Trump’s remarks are likely to have both Democratic supporters of DACA and immigration hawks scratching their heads. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the Democratic leaders involved in the DACA negotiations, insisted Thursday that House Democrats have an “understanding” with Trump that bill they agreed to pass will include a pathway to citizenship.

“I’m not here to speak about what the president understands,” Pelosi said Thursday when asked about Trump’s position on the deal, according to the Washington Examiner. “But I do believe there is an understanding that down the road there’s an eventual path to citizenship in the Dream Act.”

The Dream Act is a proposal from GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin that would allow the DACA-eligible population to apply for conditional legal status and, if certain education and work requirements are met, U.S. citizenship.

Pelosi’s comments mirrored the take offered by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who told Bloomberg News that Trump “agreed it [a DACA deal] would be the Dream Act.”

On the other hand, conservative Republicans consider giving DACA recipients legal status to be a form of amnesty, citizenship or not. In exchange for keeping DACA protections in place, immigration hawks such as Tom Cotton in the Senate and Lamar Smith in the House want deeper reforms to the immigration system beyond a border wall or surveillance technology. (RELATED: A Quick Guide To The GOP’s DACA Replacement Bills)

Trump’s comments underscore the confusion surrounding the legislative fate of DACA. Despite assurances from Pelosi and Schumer that a deal would include the Dream Act — and thus, a path to citizenship — the White House has not confirmed that to be the case.

Nor is it clear how Trump’s plans for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border might play into a DACA agreement. Before heading to Florida, Trump suggested that wall funding was non-negotiable:

“If we don’t have the wall, we are doing nothing,” he said.

But that guarantee seemed to contradict remarks Trump made earlier Thursday, when he told reporters that “the wall will come later.” (RELATED: Trump: ‘The Wall Will Come Later’ [VIDEO])

Within the White House, there also appears to be disagreement about what constitutes amnesty. White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters told reporters on Air Force One that Trump would consider an immigration reform bill that “could include legal citizenship over a period of time.”

“The Trump administration will not be discussing amnesty,” Walters said, according to CNN. “What the Trump administration will discuss is a responsible path forward in immigration reform, that could include legal citizenship over a period of time.”

Neither Trump nor Walters explained how “legal citizenship” for Dreamers differs from amnesty.

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