Trump, GOP senators sound hopeful on immigration deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the deadline clock ticking, President Donald Trump on Thursday huddled with Republican lawmakers and invited a bipartisan group to the White House next week to try to work out a deal on immigration.

Lawmakers have been trying to come up with a plan Trump will agree to that extends legal status for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, many of whom were brought to the country illegally as children.

Trump announced last September he would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that had protected them from deportation, but gave Congress until March to come up with a legislative fix. Democrats want the fix to be part of a spending pact that must pass by Jan. 19 to keep the government running.

“We’re all working in an effort to develop an immigration reform plan that will serve the interests of the American workers and the American families and safety,” Trump said at the top of Thursday’s meeting, which was attended by a handful of Republican senators, including John Cornyn of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

He later tweeted: “Thank you to the great Republican Senators who showed up to our mtg on immigration reform. We must BUILD THE WALL, stop illegal immigration, end chain migration & cancel the visa lottery. The current system is unsafe & unfair to the great people of our country – time for change!”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president is inviting a bipartisan group of senators to the White House next week “to discuss the next steps on responsible immigration reform and to continue that discussion.”

“We’d like to have a deal where we have DACA as well as those priorities and principles that we laid out last year met,” she said.

Republicans and Democrats are at odds on how best to extend protections for the young immigrants, commonly known as “Dreamers,” based on proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.

Democrats have been pushing for a stand-alone bill or for deportation protections to be included as part of other must-pass legislation. But Republicans have insisted that help for the young immigrants must come with measures to bolster border security.