A senior Department of Homeland Security official testified in a Senate hearing Tuesday that the Trump administration backs a path to citizenship for nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants.
A spokesman for the DHS later told Reuters that Michael Dougherty, the assistant secretary for border, immigration and trade policy, was not “not stating administration policy or the president’s views.”
“Under a rational bill, these [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] individuals would be able to become lawful permanent residents with a pathway to citizenship,” Dougherty said during a Tuesday hearing hosted by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Republican Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy asked Dougherty at the hearing, “So the president believes they should be allowed to stay?”
“The president, yes, would like to work with Congress to get a solution,” Dougherty replied.
Trump announced last month that the DACA program for illegal immigrants who arrived as minors would stop processing new applications in six months and that current beneficiaries’ protection would be phased out. “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do),” Trump tweeted. “If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”
Tyler Houlton, the DHS spokesman who clarified Dougherty’s remarks, told Reuters, “The White House will be issuing its priorities for immigration reform in the coming week.”
The White House has had differing messages at times about whether it supports a path to citizenship. Last month, a spokeswoman said that Trump will consider a “responsible path forward,” and that that potentially includes “legal citizenship over a period of time.”
Later that same day Trump said, “We’re not looking at citizenship, we’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.”
Most of the legislation so far put forward to deal with the so-called Dreamers would grant them a path to citizenship. The Bridge Act, however, would allow people eligible for DACA to receive a work permit and protection from deportation for three years in order to give lawmakers time to craft legislation.
Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who backs a path to citizenship for the DACA beneficiaries, told Politico Tuesday about a discussion over dinner with Trump about a potential amnesty deal.
Cotton said that Trump wants any potential deal to limit legal immigration by stopping a process known as chain migration and for it to “include some kind of enhanced measures, whether it’s on the border or interior enforcement or what have you.”
Updated at 10:34 pm with DHS spokesman’s comment to Reuters