US President Donald Trump's statements on a potential immigration deal stirred up confusion and even ire within his own Republican party on Thursday.
US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said Trump had not reached a deal on Wednesday night during a dinner with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi as the two politicians initially implied after dining with the president.
"There is no agreement," Ryan told reporters, saying that Trump's talks with Democrats "was a discussion, not an agreement or a negotiation."
The Senate's top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, likewise said any program to protect young immigrants should be part of a larger discussion on immigration, including border security and border enforcement.
Trump told reporters on Thursday that Ryan and McConnell were both "on board" with the possible deal and that "we're doing it in conjunction with the Republicans." He also said he was "fairly close" to reaching a deal on the program.
Schumer and Pelosi met with the president on Wednesday to discuss what to do with an estimated 800,000 "Dreamers" who are young immigrants brought to the US illegally as children. The Democratic leaders said on Thursday that while no deal was reached, Trump had agreed to protect "Dreamers."
'We have to have a wall'
Trump said funding for a wall along the US border with Mexico must be part of any deal on immigration, but also conceded that the funding for the wall could come at a later date.
"Ultimately we have to have a wall," Trump told reporters in Florida as he kicked off a visit to assess damage from Hurricane Irma.
"We have to have an understanding that, whether it's in the budget or some other vehicle, in a fairly short period of time, the wall will be funded," he said, adding: "Otherwise we're not doing anything."
Trump's continued push for a US-Mexico border wall may have been an attempt to appeal to his base, although anti-immigration Republicans worried that the president is going against his campaign promises.
Immigration hardliner Representative Steve King of Iowa told Trump on Twitter that if reports of a possible agreement were true, "Trump base is blown up, destroyed irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible."
Where does this leave 'Dreamers'?
The confusing back-and-forth between the president as well as Republican and Democrat lawmakers but the fate of thousands of "Dreamers" remains unclear.
Trump told reporters in Florida that he's "not looking at citizenship" as an option for the young immigrants and also "not looking for amnesty."
The comment conflicted directly which an earlier White House statement. Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told reporters that "the Trump administration will not be discussing amnesty" but that a possible option "could include legal citizenship over a period of time."
The president also appeared to shy away from the option to deport the "Dreamers," writing in a post on Twitter: "Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?"
Trump horrified many young immigrants last week when he announced his decision to repeal the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA protected immigrants brought illegally to the US as children from deportation as long as they had no criminal record and had completed high school.
Trump said he was ending the program, which was highly popular with both Democrats and Republicans, and gave Congress six months to craft immigration legislation replacing Obama's 2012 executive order.
rs/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)