By Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he would be willing to shift his stance on immigration to push through a deal that protects illegal immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation and offer them citizenship.
In an interview with CNBC broadcast on Friday, Trump also said Republican Senators Tom Cotton, John Cornyn and David Perdue and Representative Bob Goodlatte, who have all taken tough stances on immigration, could agree to offer citizenship within 10 to 12 years to so-called “Dreamers.”
“They’ve really shifted a lot, and I think they’re willing to shift more, and so am I,” the Republican president told CNBC in an interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos. “We’re going to see. If we make the right deal, I think they will.”
“These are people that have very strong opinions on DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) and on immigration generally. And I happen to think they’re largely right,” said Trump.
It was unclear whether Trump’s stated willingness to shift more on immigration would resonate with Democrats, who along with some Republicans, have accused Trump of being an unreliable negotiating partner, too willing to change his stance under pressure from conservatives in his party.
Senior White House officials outlined an immigration plan on Thursday, hours after the Trump interview was taped, that would offer a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million of the illegal immigrants. The proposal includes measures to curb some legal immigration programs and provide a border wall with Mexico.
The White House offered to more than double the number of Dreamers, who would be protected from deportation, describing it as a major concession aimed at attracting enough votes for an immigration deal from Democrats.
To appeal to Republicans, the plan would slash family sponsorship of immigrants, tighten border security and provide billions of dollars in funding for a border wall with Mexico, one of Trump’s signature campaign promises.
Senators Cotton and Perdue on Thursday praised the framework. But Representative Jim Jordan, a member of the House of Representatives conservative Freedom Caucus, said on Friday the focus of any plan must prioritize border security issues over DACA. “I have some concerns frankly. It’s all about where the focus is,” he told Fox News.
The deal has been panned by both pro-immigration groups, who called the proposal a bad trade-off, and conservative groups, who criticized the expansion of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.
Congressional Democrats also oppose the measure. “The president should not be releasing a framework that is a nonstarter like this one,” Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said on Thursday.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jeffrey Benkoe)