Surrogates for President Donald Trump said Sunday that American workers would benefit by ending an Obama-era program that has let about 800,000 undocumented immigrant children work and study in the United States without fear of deportation, but congressional Republicans urged the White House to leave the program intact.
Trump "wants to do what's fair to the American worker, what's fair to people in this country who are competing for jobs and other benefits," counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Sunday on "Fox & Friends." She said the president's decision should be seen as part of an "entire economic and domestic agenda" that includes an end to sanctuary cities, increased border security and constructing a wall along the southern border.
"He says we have to keep people and poison out of our communities. People who are coming here illegally and competing for those jobs," Conway said.
In an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he was "less concerned about the economic impact" of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, because "we'll make sure that we have plenty of workers in this economy. We want to put more people back to work."
Neither Conway nor Mnuchin specified what Trump will say when he addresses the future of the DACA program in a planned Tuesday announcement.
As a candidate, Trump promised to end the program, but he has never acted on that promise as president. Instead, he has several times expressed sympathy for the plight of DACA recipients — and eschewed signing draft executive orders presented to him that would end the program.
Congressional pushback to reports Trump may end the DACA program continued unabated through the weekend, as lawmakers implored the president to leave the program alone.
Flake has long criticized Trump, but their relationship has deteriorated in recent weeks after the president endorsed his 2018 primary challenger Kelli Ward. On Sunday, Flake also voiced skepticism about the idea that Congress might barter with Trump to get him to leave DACA intact by funding his much-desired border wall. "If he's talking about a solitary, brick-and-mortar, 2,000-mile edifice on the border, then no, nobody ought to support that," Flake said.
Flake is not the only member of Congress attempting to stand in between the president and the DACA program. Those urging the president to let DACA survive include House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and conservative senators like Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who have implored Trump to give Congress a chance to address the program in law.
Tackling immigration is not easy for Congress, where many conservatives argue that more must be done to secure the border before addressing programs to streamline entry for immigrants or legalize the undocumented. Previous efforts to combine immigration and border enforcement initiatives have failed, even when Democrats had congressional majorities.
Still, the sympathetic cases of DACA recipients have inspired lawmakers from various corners of Congress to sponsor legislation to legalize their status. Their support raises the possibility that a handful of Republicans could join congressional Democrats to get a bill over the finish line.
But Conway suggested that even growing sympathy for DACA recipients — including Trump's own sympathies — would not change his mind about ending the program.
"I do want to remind everyone that President Trump was able to take issues that were languishing in low single digits, if not an asterisk in the polls in terms of what's most important to you — trade, illegal immigration — and he was able to expand them into an entire message of fairness," Conway said.