President Donald Trump speaks at a dinner reception during the annual National Governors Association winter meeting, Feb. 26, 2017.
President Donald Trump speaks at a dinner reception during the annual National Governors Association winter meeting, Feb. 26, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he expects the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare to come up when he meets with the nation's governors Monday in Washington

More than 40 state leaders are in Washington for the annual National Governors Association.

Trump drank a toast to those he calls the "great, great governors of the United States" at a White House dinner Sunday night, even if some of the governors disagree with some of his policies.  

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the association and a Democrat, toasted Trump, calling for the president and governors to work together on issues like jobs, education and health care.

Before McAuliffe spoke, Trump noted he'd be meeting with the governors on Monday and "perhaps health care will come up." 

Immigration policy also a concern

The president's recent orders to get tougher on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants include threats to cut off billions of dollars in federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Trump's plans include deputizing local law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents.

In interviews with VOA, some of the governors said they want to see immigrants and refugees newly arrived in America succeed in making new lives for themselves. They also stressed that everyone should be treated with compassion and in a reasonable manner as laws are enforced.

FILE - Thousands of people take part in the "Free
FILE - Thousands of people take part in the "Free the People Immigration March,'' to protest actions taken by President Donald Trump and his administration, in Los Angeles, Feb. 18, 2017.

McAuliffe has said he considers the new measures "immoral and illegal."

Speaking to VOA's Persian News Network, he said immigrants and refugees are "safe in Virginia...we want people to come, we want you to start a business and raise your family and have a great quality of life.  In Virginia, we're going to protect all the basic and fundamental civil liberties and civil rights."

National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman Gov.
National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks with reporters after leaving a health care reform meeting during the NGA's Winter Meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.

Democratic Governor Kate Brown of Oregon told VOA her state is "inclusive," and added: “We want to make sure Oregon is a place where everyone can thrive; that includes our immigrant and refugee populations."

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said his state has a large number of immigrants from Vietnam as well as Mexico and Central America.

"Immigrants and refugees are what make up the United States of America," Hutchinson told VOA's Somali service. “It just has to be done in a legal process.  What you see is not just in the United States, but really globally, a tightening of immigration enforcement.

"Europe has a border policy they're struggling with...the United States is in the same position," Hutchinson added.  "Let's start by enforcing the laws. Obviously we need to do it in a compassionate and reasonable way, but we have to protect our borders and enforce the law."

Medicaid proposal

Saturday's discussions at the NGA winter meeting were highlighted by tensions over a proposal by Republican governors to overhaul Medicaid, the federal program that provides insurance to more than 70 million low-income Americans.

The Republican governors' Medicaid proposal, a draft of which was obtained by the Associated Press, urges Congress to change Medicaid from an open-ended federal entitlement to a program designed by each state to stay within financial limits.  

The Republicans say their plan would give states more flexibility to administer health coverage for poorer residents, while also protecting them from absorbing the costs of repealing the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Democratic governors accused their Republican counterparts Saturday of being dishonest about the effects of their plan, which they said would take away people's health care coverage to finance tax cuts for the wealthy.

Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010 when they had majority control of both houses of Congress and controlled the White House. Republicans have opposed the law since its passage, and tried more than 50 times unsuccessfully to repeal it during the Obama administration.

The Republican Party argues that prices are too high for Affordable Care Act insurance coverage, and individual states should have more control than the federal government over the issue.

The governors met Saturday with recently confirmed Health Secretary Tom Price.  As a congressman, Price was a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act and led efforts to repeal the law and replace it with alternative legislation.  Price told the governors the administration will release its plan soon.

Trump will speak Tuesday to both houses of Congress, laying out his vision for the coming year.  Such a speech, the equivalent of the State of the Union address, traditionally is delivered by a new president shortly after his inauguration.

VOA's Persian and Somali services contributed to this report.