Democrats are demanding a permanent fix to protect young undocumented immigrants – so-called Dreamers – and may even be willing to risk a government shutdown over the issue as congressional leaders head to the White House to meet with President Donald Trump.
The original meeting between the top Democrats, top Republicans and Mr Trump was originally scheduled for last week. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dramatically pulled out after the President attacked them on Twitter.
Mr Trump suggested he doesn’t see the White House being able to reach a deal with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, saying a problem is “they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked”.
On Wednesday, Mr Trump told reporters a shutdown “could happen”.
“The Democrats are really looking at something that is very dangerous for our country. They are looking at shutting down,” he said. “They want to have illegal immigrants; in many cases, people that we don’t want in our country.”
Democrats say these claims are incorrect – that they don’t want a government shutdown or immigrants streaming into the country illegally.
On Thursday, Ms Pelosi said Democrats will insist on safeguards for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme before the holiday recess later this month.
“We will not leave here without a DACA fix,” Ms Pelosi told reporters, according to the newspaper The Hill.
Mr Trump announced in September that he was rescinding the Obama-era policy that has allowed nearly 800,000 so-called “Dreamers” to work and go to school without fear of deportation. He gave Congress until March to figure out a solution.
There was confusion in September over whether the President had made a deal with Democrats to permanently protect Dreamers and work out a package of border security, excluding Mr Trump’s oft-promised border wall.
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Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer said both sides agreed that the wall would not be part of this agreement – but that the President made clear he intends to pursue it at a later time.
Mr Trump has maintained that building a wall along the US’s southern border with Mexico will prevent illegal immigration, despite scepticism from experts and even members of his own party.
Ms Pelosi emphasised on Thursday that Democrats will accept tougher border security, but not border wall funding or provisions to bolster interior enforcement.
“We said to the president the night he agreed to the DACA legislation that we have a responsibility to protect our border, and we think there are many things we can do working together to do that,” Ms Pelosi said.
“[But] we’re not going to turn this country into a reign of terror of domestic enforcement and have the Dreamers pay that price,” she added.