Semantic disputes aside, a deal in Washington is never done until legislation is signed, and in that sense, codified protections for DACA have a long way to go. Even the victory-claiming Democrats acknowledged that significant details must still be ironed out. One aide described the agreement as “general principles.” “We agreed to a plan to work out an agreement to protect our nation’s DREAMers from deportation,” Pelosi told her members in a midnight memo. “Hopefully, we can get this all done in a matter of weeks.”
In a second joint statement on Thursday morning, Pelosi and Schumer said Trump’s tweets were “not inconsistent” with the agreement they reached at the White House. They said:
“We agreed that the president would support enshrining DACA protections into law, and encourage the House and Senate to act.
“What remains to be negotiated are the details of border security, with a mutual goal of finalizing all details as soon as possible. While both sides agreed that the wall would not be any part of this agreement, the president made clear he intends to pursue it at a later time, and we made clear we would continue to oppose it.
“Both sides agreed that the White House and the Democratic leaders would work out a border security package.
Key questions include: What counts as border security? Will Republicans demand additional measures to bolster interior enforcement as well, such as cracking down on visa overstays? And what exact protections will DACA recipients obtain? The DACA program merely shielded them from deportation for a period of time; it did not give them legal status. But Pelosi made clear that Democrats would insist on enactment of the Dream Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard of California that offers a path to full citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before turning 18 and meet other requirements.
In an illustration of just how much is left to decide, Trump told reporters in Florida that he was “not looking at citizenship” for DACA recipients. But the legislation that Democrats are pushing would provide exactly that. And shortly before the president spoke, a White House spokeswoman, Lindsay Walters, used the words “legal citizenship over a period of time” to describe what Trump had in mind for the so-called Dreamers.
And then there is the tricky matter of the Republican Party, which by and large has fought the legalization of any class of undocumented immigrants for more than a decade. Unlike his last deal-making meeting with Democrats, Trump didn’t even bother to invite House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to dinner on Wednesday night. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, defended their exclusion by noting that Trump is “the leader of the Republican Party.” Trump told reporters they were both “on board,” but neither issued an immediate comment. Their support will be necessary to bring any legislation up for a vote, and the forces of opposition quickly mobilized on Wednesday night.