Trump ruled out a so-called pathway to legal status as recently as August
Trump, however, stopped short of explicitly calling for such a policy in his speech to Congress
A Republican lawmaker said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s apparent desire to pass an immigration reform bill that would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants is consistent with his campaign promises.
“I believe there is an opening here and it’s consistent with what the President said when he was campaigning,” Rep. Chris Collins told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.”
Trump – whose campaign was marked by tough rhetoric against undocumented immigrants – ruled out a so-called pathway to legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US as recently as August.
But he told reporters Tuesday at the White House that “the time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides.” He did not use similarly explicit language during his address to a joint session of Congress later that night.
The President is eager to pass an immigration bill in his first term that would stop short of granting a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, but would allow undocumented immigrants who aren’t serious or violent criminals to live, work and pay taxes in the US without fear of deportation, a senior administration official said.
Collins, who supported Trump during the 2016 presidential election, said the President’s apparent interest in compromising on immigration is not a policy shift.
“During the campaign, he said, ‘Let’s secure the border, let’s deport the criminal element and then we will deal in a compassionate way typical of the way America has treated people in the past,’” the New York lawmaker told Camerota.
Collins said he was hopeful for a pathway to legal work status for law-abiding undocumented workers. He also blamed former President Barack Obama for putting “a stick in our eye” when it came to a bipartisan compromise on immigration.
“I thought we were close to some type of compromise and then he insisted on citizenship and that just poisoned the water and weren’t able to move beyond it,” Collins said.
Supporters of a pathway to citizenship argue that granting legal status instead could create a permanent underclass of residents.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, also appearing on “New Day” Wednesday, criticized the President over the issue, calling it the latest example of Trump’s inconsistency.
“To a group of cosmopolitan reporters off the record in the White House, he says, ‘Oh, maybe we can work something out.’ Then he gives a speech that is vehemently, virulently anti-immigrant. And we have been to this movie before,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
The New York Democrat said when Trump associates have expressed interest in immigration reform in the past, the President’s base and staff pushed back on it.
“The bottom line is, if he’s interested in a real plan, of course we’ll sit down and talk to him. He’s said things several times and backed off, which is what the speech was all about,” Schumer said.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez also criticized Trump for a speech that he said was hostile toward immigrants.
“We talked about the wall again last night. What he doesn’t talk about are the people he’s deporting,” he told Camerota Wednesday. “He claims to only be deporting immigrants who have been convicted of a serious crime. That’s simply not accurate.”
“The immigrant baiting that was a staple in last night’s speech was just again another example of the divisive action,” Perez added.
The former labor secretary said that if Trump supports undocumented immigrants gaining legal work status, then his actions need to match his rhetoric.
“I judge a person by their actions. Everything Donald Trump has said about immigration has been immigrant-baiting,” he said. “We’ve seen it through the campaign, through the election.”