President Donald Trump has a tax code overhaul, the construction of the border wall, and massive repairs and expansions to the infrastructure on his wish list.
But after meeting with the president on Wednesday, Rep. Scott Peters said it appears that those goals won’t be reached unless something is done to help “Dreamers” first.
“It’s hard to see anything else getting done without the DACA issue,” Peters, a San Diego Democrat said in a telephone interview. “I don’t see a lot of Democrats being willing to bargain if that issue is out there. It’s something that’s too important.”
Last week Trump repealed former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy that let immigrants who came to the United States as children to apply for a work permit and stay in the country. Peters said members of his party want the government to do something to let these people remain.
He said Trump urged members of Congress to work together on a bill that would let those affected by the repeal remain in the U.S., but didn’t give details.
It was Peters’ first meeting at the White House with the new administration, and he said the president and bipartisan group of House moderates also talked about heath care, tax policy, and the extended wall planned along the U.S-Mexico border.
“The mood of it was very positive and he seemed very open to listening to us,” Peters said. “We heard, from his staffers, that he had been looking forward to this bipartisan meeting.”
In addition to DACA, the president said he wanted to do something that would assist military veterans at risk of being deported, Peters said.
Immigrants who serve in the military, including ones that came to the country illegally, become eligible for U.S. citizenship. Some, however, do not take advantage of the opportunity and have subsequently been deported after they were discharged from the armed forces.
While some members of Congress believe that protection for Dreamers should be figured out because it’s a worthy cause in itself, Peters said the president might use the issue as a bargaining chip to help him reach his own policy goals.
Peters said he told the president that San Diego is opposed to the expanded border wall, and supports cross-border commerce and labor. There are more efficient ways to keep unwanted people out of the country than a tall wall that can be tunneled under, he said, and the administration should focus on drug smuggling and human trafficking.
Trump said he wants the wall, but Peters said that he also appeared open to other methods to increase security.
“To the extent that border security is what he wants, I want him to know that San Diegans and Californians aren’t in favor of a wall. It’s not productive, and it’s a wasteful expenditure,” Peters said.
There is already a wall along much of San Diego County’s border with Mexico.
They also discussed tax reform, and the president said that he wanted a pro-growth program, but added that there wouldn’t be massive taxes for the rich, Peters said,
The congressman, who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, said the president suggested top-earners might pay more.
The president also said he wants an infrastructure program, a campaign promise that many Democrats supported, and a bipartisan plan to amend parts of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, rather than repeal the health care law.
“I think the message might be that there’s an opportunity for Democrats to create solutions, which is why I get on the plane every week” and go to Washington, Peters said.
The 70-minute meeting came a week after Trump, to wide surprise, met with minority party leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and agreed to a plan for $15 billion in emergency disaster funds, and to continue government spending and raise the debt ceiling until early December.
Democrats have used the agreement to show that they’re willing to say yes to the president when their priorities align. Trump, who was praised for reaching across party lines, was scheduled to meet with Pelosi and Schumer for dinner Wednesday evening.
Peters said the president appears to be willing to make deals, but he wasn’t certain that Trump is entirely committed to bipartisanship to create lasting changes.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I am very careful with this president to say that one day is not a trend. The proof is in the pudding.”
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