- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2018

President Trump said Wednesday he supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” taking a firm stand on one of the thorniest issues in the looming debate.

The declaration, which the president made to reporters at the White House, goes further than the White House had been willing to go. Until now, officials had said the president supported some form of legal status but had stopped short of saying that should end in citizenship.

Mr. Trump, though, said he envisions a 10-12 year path — similar to what a bipartisan deal in Congress had called for.

“We’re going to morph into it. It’s going to happen at some point in the future over a period of 10 to 12 years,” he said, according to news reports — though he cast it not as a guarantee, but an “incentive” that would go to Dreamers to become productive members of society.

Mr. Trump also said he would consider extending the March 5 phaseout date for the Obama-era DACA program that’s protecting some 690,000 Dreamers.

That contradicts his Justice Department and Homeland Security secretary, who have told Congress and the federal courts that the DACA program is illegal and cannot be maintained or extended.

Mr. Trump’s argument could undercut the Justice Department just as it prepares to argue the illegality of DACA to the Supreme Court.

“The attorney general has made it clear that he believes such exercise is unconstitutional. It’s for Congress to fix,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the Senate earlier this month.

Mr. Trump’s new stance on citizenship appears to answer complaints from Capitol Hill that he was hindering their negotiations, rejecting plans without offering anything himself.

The White House said earlier Monday that Mr. Trump will lay out a plan Monday, dealing with all four aspects he’s said are needed: a solution for Dreamers, funding for his border wall, limits to the chain of family migration and an end to the Diversity Visa Lottery that gives green cards away based on chance.

The president’s comments seem to lock the White House in on the generosity of the legalization he envisions for Dreamers.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said Mr. Trump had just made the job of getting a deal done on Capitol Hill much easier.

“This statement represents presidential leadership on immigration that will allow us to solve a difficult problem,” he said. “I truly appreciate President Trump making it clear that he supports a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. This will greatly help the Senate efforts to craft a proposal which President Trump can sign into law.”

Mr. Graham said Mr. Trump has a chance to succeed where Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush failed.

“Today’s DACA recipients can be tomorrow’s Trump Dreamers,” he said.

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