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Trump impedes bipartisan Senate immigration deal

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Hundreds of immigration activists, clergy members and others participate in a protest against US President Donald Trump's immigration policies on January 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by AFP)

At a time when reaching bipartisan deals has become more difficult than ever in US politics, a bipartisan group of senators have clinched a deal on a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but they say they are facing opposition from US President Donald Trump.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Democrat Senator Dick Durbin said Thursday a group of six senators from both parties had locked down an agreement among themselves on pairing a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a border security package. 

"We've got this bipartisan group. We are at a deal. ... It's the only game in town," Flake told reporters.

But Durbin and GOP Senator Lindsey Graham were told during a Thursday meeting with Donald Trump at the White House that he was not ready to sign the bipartisan bill.

"We were hoping for that, but the president is not prepared to do that at this moment," Durbin explained.

By late afternoon Thursday, The Washington Post reported that the president had shocked the senators by complaining about immigrants from “shithole” countries like Haiti and saying the US should take more immigrants from Norway instead.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, also said the president has not signed on to the agreement and that there is a "long ways to go."

He added that the White House is "not looking for DACA to be the DREAM Act" — referring to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that provides a path to citizenship.

Short added the president wants changes to "chain migration" to go broader than just impacting the DACA population, a potential hurdle for the bipartisan Senate group's deal.

"I think we're pleased that bipartisan members are talking... but I still think there's a ways to go," he said.

Democrats and Republicans are trying to come to an agreement by the end of next week on what to do about the 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who are losing or set to lose their deportation protections under the DACA program.

What is DACA?

DACA is an executive action taken by former US President Barack Obama that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the US under the age of 16 to apply for protection from deportation. After a background check, those individuals were able to get renewable two-year permits to work and study in the US, as well.

The Trump administration announced in September that it would end the program that has provided protection from deportation and the right to work legally to nearly 800,000 young people since it was authorized by Obama in 2012.

Since it went into effect in 2012, roughly 800,000 people were protected by the program, and roughly 700,000 had active DACA protections in September, when the Trump administration announced its end.

To be eligible, applicants had to have arrived in the US before age 16 and have lived there since June 15, 2007. They could not have been older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012.

Opponents of DACA argue that it rewards illegal immigration.

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