Trump Pressures Democrats to Bargain on Immigration


The president rejected a bipartisan immigration proposal from senators as part of a spending bill last month, leading to a three-day government shutdown. Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address, in which he referred to immigrants as gang members and killers, did not signal he was amenable to a bipartisan deal he has said he wants. Instead, appropriating a term used to describe the younger immigrants, he said, “Americans are dreamers too,” a line that angered Democrats.

Mr. Trump expanded on that on Thursday at the Republican retreat, rejecting the term. “Some people call it dreamers,” he said. “It’s not dreamers. Don’t fall into that trap.”

The president expressed pique at Democrats for not applauding during his State of the Union address, even when he hailed a record-low unemployment rate among African Americans.

“When I made that statement the other night, there was zero movement from the Democrats,” he said. “They sat there stone cold, no smile, no applause. You would have thought that on that one they would have sort of at least clapped a little bit. Which tells you perhaps they’d rather see us not do well than see our country do great.”

Democrats resent his claiming credit for falling unemployment among African Americans not just because he has engaged in racially provocative feuds and equivocated over a white supremacist rally but because the fall in joblessness among blacks began six years before he took office.

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Mr. Trump also assailed Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, for minimizing the bonuses that some companies are paying workers citing Mr. Trump’s tax cuts. Ms. Pelosi has said workers were getting “crumbs” compared to what corporations were receiving from the tax cuts and Mr. Trump compared it to Hillary Clinton’s use of the word “deplorables” to describe some of his supporters in 2016.

“She called it crumbs when people are getting $2,000 and $3,000 and $1,000,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s not crumbs, that’s a lot of money.”

Ms. Pelosi’s office responded by saying that Republicans were taking her words out of context to cover up the fact that their tax law enriches their wealthy donors at the expense of working families. “What’s deplorable is Republicans’ desperate effort to hide the multibillion dollar corporate windfalls of the G.O.P. tax scam behind a handful of meager, one-time bonuses,” said Drew Hammill, her spokesman.

In addressing the Republican retreat, Mr. Trump reprised many of the elements of his State of the Union speech but focused on immigration, perhaps his biggest legislative priority, and seemed intent on pressuring Republicans as well as Democrats to come to the table.

“We’re going to have to compromise unless we elect more Republicans,” he warned. “We have to be willing to give a little in order for our country to gain a whole lot.”

Speaking to reporters at the retreat on Thursday morning, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican, acknowledged that coming up with an immigration bill that can attract the 60 votes needed in the Senate, pass the House and receive Mr. Trump’s signature was “a difficult needle to thread.”

Mr. Thune suggested that the best approach might be to narrow the scope of the legislation to only two of the four “pillars” that the president has proposed addressing, leaving out family-based migration and the diversity visa lottery.

“I think that if we can solve DACA and border security, that may be the best we can hope for,” Mr. Thune said. He described such a narrower plan as a “fallback position that can pass the House, the Senate and get signed,” adding that if “other issues enter into that conversation, it gets more complicated.”

But Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he did not believe such a two-pillar approach would pass the House.

Mr. Goodlatte is pushing his own immigration proposal that is intended to appeal to conservatives and is far broader than even what Mr. Trump has outlined. His proposal would crack down on illegal immigration while also significantly reducing the number of legal immigrants to the United States.

“I think the Senate would be well advised to focus on the Senate’s work, and the House would be well advised to focus on the House’s work,” Mr. Goodlatte said, adding that he expected his proposal would receive a vote in the House.

Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, quickly dismissed Mr. Thune’s idea of a slimmed-down bill.

“Senator Thune represents a state that’s a long ways from the southern border,” Mr. Meadows said. “Making a suggestion that a two-pillar answer is going to get support in the House is a nonstarter.”

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