President Donald Trump is strongly considering a plan that would end the Obama-era program that shields young unauthorized immigrants from deportation, but only after giving Congress six months to come up with a potential replacement for the popular initiative, according to three administration officials briefed on the discussions.
Officials working on the plan stressed that Trump could still change his mind, and some key details had not yet been resolved. Among them: whether beneficiaries of the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, would be allowed to renew their protected status during the six-month period.
The compromise, which could lead to legislation superseding President Barack Obama’s executive order, is intended to address a growing chorus of Republican lawmakers, led by the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, who have implored the White House to keep some form of the program.
The temporary solution has been the subject of quiet negotiations between Trump’s legislative staff and members of Ryan’s staff, according to an administration official familiar with the talks.
But administration aides concede that Congress may be unable to agree on a legislative fix, given the headwinds that previous legislation has run into for years. It is unclear exactly what would happen after six months if Congress does not act.
The president is scheduled to receive more counsel on the matter Monday, before an announcement the White House has said will be made Tuesday. The plan was first reported Sunday night by Politico. The Washington Post and The Associated Press are also reporting that Trump is considering ending the program.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had no response to questions about the negotiations, other than to say Trump still intended to make some kind of announcement after Labor Day.
One official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Trump was sympathetic to the young immigrants, known as Dreamers – many have known life only in the United States and have few connections to the countries of their birth – but had been told by Justice Department lawyers that his predecessor’s program would not survive a court challenge.
Last week, John F. Kelly, the president’s chief of staff, told associates that he did not see how Texas, which has led the charge against the DACA policy, could proceed with a lawsuit while parts of the state are still underwater from Hurricane Harvey.
Democrats and corporate leaders, as well as Republicans, have urged Trump to preserve the program, and public opinion polls have found overwhelming support for allowing the young immigrants to stay and work in the United States.
But Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his former aide, Stephen Miller, who is now the president’s top national policy adviser, have been pushing Trump to end the program. Both are immigration hard-liners who see ending DACA as a core campaign promise the president must adhere to.
Eleven state attorneys general wrote to Sessions in June threatening to mount a legal challenge to the DACA program unless the administration phased out the program by Sept. 5, which is Tuesday. In a meeting at the White House, Sessions informed Trump that he would not defend what he considered an unconstitutional order in court, according to people familiar with the conversation, and officials at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have made the case to the president that his administration would look foolish if it argued in favor of preserving it.
The president has sent wildly divergent signals about the DACA program, publicly agonizing over the fate of the initiative for months, vowing to prevent deportations of minors in college while promising to crack down on all forms of immigration. Most of those in Trump’s White House, including his own family, support lenience toward immigrants in the program.
The president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who are both advisers to the president, back extending the DACA protections.
The policy change would affect about 800,000 unauthorized immigrants shielded under the DACA program, potentially rescinding their legal status and subjecting them to deportation.
Immigration advocacy groups have said that ending the program would be a coldhearted step that would yield no benefit to the nation while endangering large numbers of young people raised in the United States who are seeking to work and pay taxes.
“I don’t understand what anybody thinks we gain by taking away people’s ability to work and subject them to deportation,” said Cecilia Muñoz, who helped create the program as the chief domestic policy adviser to Obama. “The positive benefits of DACA are so abundantly clear.”
Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., told Republicans in a Twitter message that “your moment has come” to preserve the program. “Every Democrat will join you,” he said. “Show the courage and grace to save these children, and our nation.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who is retiring, wrote on Twitter, “After teasing #Dreamers for months with talk of his ‘great heart,' @POTUS slams door on them. Some ‘heart.’”
Even as his supporters who favor curtailing illegal immigration have sought to hold him accountable to his campaign promise, Trump has publicly expressed reservations about ending DACA.
In an April interview with The Associated Press, Trump said that those protected under the program should “rest easy” about their status. He insisted that his administration was “not after the Dreamers, we are after the criminals.” He added, “That is our policy.”
But Sessions has sought to enforce immigration laws as they exist now, and has balked at Obama’s executive actions in internal debates, administration officials said.
Any move to end the DACA program will not improve Trump’s already testy relations with Silicon Valley tech companies.
On Thursday, a group of top tech chiefs – including Timothy D. Cook of Apple, Jeffrey P. Bezos of Amazon and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook – signed an open letter to the president and congressional leaders urging them to preserve the program.
On Saturday, Zuckerberg changed the profile picture on his Facebook page, which has 96 million followers worldwide, to say, “I Support DACA.” On Sunday, Cook tweeted, “250 of my Apple coworkers are #Dreamers. I stand with them.”