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Congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump stopped short of reaching a deal to shield about 800,000 young immigrants from deportation, and both sides differ on how far negotiations got.
"What remains to be negotiated are the details of border security, with a mutual goal of finalizing all details as soon as possible," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement issued Thursday morning. "While both sides agreed that the wall would not be any part of this agreement, the President made clear he intends to pursue it at a later time, and we made clear we would continue to oppose it."
The statement came after some public dispute about whether the bipartisan group actually reached a deal at their Wednesday night meeting. Subsequent public statements by the president and Democratic leaders only appeared to muddle the details of a possible deal, though they voiced support for protecting so-called dreamers.
On Thursday, as he prepared to board a plane for hurricane-ravaged Florida, Trump said the meeting drew both parties closer to a resolution and appeared to acknowledge that border wall funding would not come as part of a DACA deal, specifically.
"I think we're fairly close, but we have to get massive border security," Trump said. "The wall is going to be built; it'll be funded a little bit later." He noted that large sections of the existing wall are under renovation right now.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Thursday morning that while no deal was made, negotiations to salvage the program are "on the table."
Last week, Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, with a six-month delay to encourage Congress to pass its protections into law. The policy shields certain undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and authorizes them to work for two years.
Congressional leaders from both parties and Trump have recently supported passing the protections into law. Trump's insistence on making funding for his proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico a condition of a bill — a nonstarter for Democrats — could have threatened a measure to protect so-called dreamers.
Top congressional Democrats on Wednesday night said they reached a deal with Trump — without the president's proposed border wall as a condition. Trump later denied any such deal was made.
On Wednesday evening, Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement, following a White House dinner with Trump: "We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that's acceptable to both sides."
The leaders said they specifically agreed to pair the DREAM Act — legislation that offers the young immigrants an eventual path to permanent residency and citizenship that's previously failed in Congress — with other border security provisions, a person briefed on the meeting said.
Thursday morning, however, Trump disputed the Democrats' version of events, tweeting, "No deal was made on DACA."
Schumer and Pelosi sought to settle the matter Thursday morning, saying, "President Trump's Tweets are not inconsistent with the agreement reached last night." They noted that the president agreed to support "enshrining DACA protections into law."
"Both sides agreed that the White House and the Democratic leaders would work out a border security package. Possible proposals were discussed including new technology, drones, air support, sensor equipment, rebuilding roads along the border, and the bipartisan McCaul-Thompson bill."
While visiting Florida Thursday morning, Trump said "there was no deal and [the Democratic leaders] didn't say they had a deal." He added that "we're not looking at citizenship, we're not looking at amnesty" but at "allowing people to stay here."
"Ultimately, we have to have the wall. If we don't have the wall, we're doing nothing," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said kicking out the immigrants protected by DACA "is not in our nation's interest." He added, however, that he wanted any legislation protecting them to get paired with border security measures.
The agreement announced by Schumer and Pelosi comes amid a period of increased engagement between Trump and Democrats. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not attend the dinner on Wednesday night.
Last week, Trump struck a deal with Democratic leaders to attach hurricane aid to a debt ceiling extension and government funding, both for only three months — over the objections of Republican leaders.