WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump says he is confident Congress will act to protect 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported, even after he moved to end the program that kept them from being returned to their home countries.
"Congress, I really believe, wants to take care of this situation," Trump said aboard Air Force One before heading to North Dakota for a speech about tax reform. "I really believe it, even very conservative members of Congress."
Trump said he told congressional leaders at a White House meeting before leaving Washington, "If we can get something to happen, we are going to sign it and we are going to make a lot of happy people."
Trump has been widely criticized by Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans, along with U.S. business leaders, for rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by former President Barack Obama for the undocumented immigrants that kept them in the U.S. to study and work and serve in its military.
In overturning the program Tuesday, Trump gave Congress six months to vote on the issue, but said he would revisit his decision to lift the ban on deportations if Congress did not act.
In his remarks on the plane, Trump said he did not think he would have to reconsider his decision in six months.
"I have a feeling that’s not going to be necessary," he said. "I think they’re going to make a deal. I think Congress really wants to do this." Trump said he would like immigration legislation that includes protection for the undocumented immigrants and "something where we have good border security."
The immigrants years ago illegally entered the United States with their parents. While numerous lawmakers have said they want to keep the immigrants, often popularly referred to as Dreamers, from being deported, Congress has been stymied in several attempts in recent years to change U.S. immigration policies.
Trump has pressed for tighter immigration controls and called for construction of a wall on the country's southern border with Mexico to thwart more migrants from entering the country, but the proposal remains controversial and Congress has not adopted it.
Trump offered his latest comments on the undocumented immigrants after meeting with the top four congressional leaders, Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with the top two Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.
Earlier, Ryan said that Obama was wrong to create the deportation deferral program "because he overstepped his constitutional bounds" in authorizing it with an executive order rather than with legislation and Trump was "right in his decision" to overturn it.
Ryan said lawmakers would work in the coming months to find a compromise in how to protect the undocumented immigrants from being deported. But he described their plight as "a symptom of a larger problem. And the larger problem is that we do not have control of our borders. And so it’s only reasonable and fitting that we also address the root cause of the problem, which is borders that are not sufficiently controlled, while we address this very real and very human problem that’s right in front of us.”
But key Democratic lawmakers called for passage of what they are calling the Dream Act, which would protect the undocumented immigrants, many of whom know only the United States as their home, but not address broader immigration issues. Four Republican senators have announced their support for it, but Democrats need another eight Republicans for Senate passage.
“I would say this to President Trump: ‘If you love the Dreamers, help us pass the Dream Act,’" Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said. "I would say to the Republicans in Congress who are not swept away by the anti-immigrant rhetoric, which we have heard over and over again: ‘Stand up with us.'”
Schumer said Democrats want Ryan and McConnell to "immediately put the Dream Act on the floor for a vote in the House and Senate. We’re ready to pass it. I am confident that if put on the floor it will garner overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle."
Schumer said if the Dream Act is not passed this month, Democrats will attempt to attach it to other legislation until it passes.