WASHINGTON ― House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that President Donald Trump told her on two occasions that he supports and would sign a bill to give legal status to young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
“We made it very clear in the course of the conversation that the priority was to pass the Dream Act,” Pelosi said at a press briefing. “Obviously it has to be bipartisan. The president supports that, he would sign it. But we have to get it passed.”
Democrats are pushing for the bill, called the Dream Act, after Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program earlier this week. So-called Dreamers who received two-year work permits and deportation protections will begin to lose them in six months unless Congress steps in to act.
Trump has said he wants to work with Congress, including Democrats, to pass a bill that addresses DACA recipients before that time. He called Pelosi earlier Thursday and made the comment about the Dream Act then, as well as in a meeting on Wednesday, according to Pelosi.
After their phone conversation, Trump tweeted to say Dreamers should not worry about being detained over the next six months, which a Democratic aide said Pelosi requested he say publicly.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the conversations.
Democrats in the House and Senate called for a vote on the Dream Act in September and said they are prepared to attach the legislation to other bills until it passes. Earlier this week, lawmakers opened up an informal restriction on co-sponsorship of the bill ― they were allowing members to sign on only in Democrat-Republican pairs ― and expect the number of backers to go up significantly in the House.
Pelosi predicted it would pass in the House if it was allowed to go for a vote. That would depend, however, on whether House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) allowed it to go for a vote. He said Wednesday that he wanted to pair Dreamer legislation with border security.
The same goes for the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell (R-Ky.) has previously opposed the Dream Act and other immigration bills that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants.
Pelosi said she believes Trump will demand border security measures as part of a Dream Act package, but not a wall.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday morning on the Senate floor that Trump called him earlier in the day and “said he wanted to help in the Dream Act.” Schumer said that he asked Trump to push other Republicans to support the bill and Ryan and McConnell to hold a vote “ASAP.”
“We now have four Republican cosponsors. We need more,” Schumer said. “There are many on the floor, in the Senate, who seem to be sympathetic to the Dream Act. Maybe the president can help them get to cosponsor.”
The Dream Act, first introduced in 2001, would allow certain young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. under the age of 18 to gain legal status and eventually become eligible for citizenship.
Republicans are also gathering support for the Recognizing America’s Children, or RAC Act, a standalone bill that would allow certain young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to gain legal status. That bill would apply to a narrower population of Dreamers: only those who entered before the age of 16 would be eligible.
The RAC Act is picking up steam in the House. It gained nine co-sponsors on Tuesday and Wednesday, and is now up to 28 backers in total, all of them Republicans. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is expected to introduce the RAC Act in the Senate in coming days.