President Donald Trump on Friday said that he would not sign an immigration bill that House Republicans drafted as a compromise between the conservative and more centrist wings of their caucus.
Trump indicated his opposition to the bill during an impromptu appearance on "Fox & Friends," which was being aired on the White House lawn. The president began by blaming Democrats for spearheading a law that separates migrant families.
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"The Democrats, by the way, are very weak on immigration," Trump told Fox News host Steve Doocy. "If you notice when I came over, they were all saying about ‘separating the families,' and that's a Democrat bill. That's Democrats wanting to do that, and they could solve it very easily by getting together, but they think it's a good election point. I think it's a horrible election point."
The Trump administration's practice of separating immigrant children from their families when they are apprehended for crossing the border illegally has been a hot-button political issue in recent weeks. Democrats and moderate Republicans have castigated the practice, which is based on the administration's interpretation that existing laws and court decisions require adults to be incarcerated and children to be separated from their parents.
Trump went on to accuse Democrats of not wanting to change the current law, adding that Republicans would be willing to negotiate with them. He then said that Democrats are "afraid of security for our country" and of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Doocy then noted that the House is set to consider two immigration bills next week—a conservative measure from Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) and a more moderate, compromise proposal that GOP leaders struck with centrist Republicans.
"Would you sign either one of these?" Doocy asked.
"I'm looking at both of them," Trump responded. "I certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one."
Doocy then asked what needs to be in both bills for him to sign them.
"I need a bill that gives this country tremendous border security. I have to have that," Trump said. "We have to have the wall. If we don't have the wall, there's no bill. We have to have catch and release. We catch a criminal, a real criminal, a rough, tough criminal. We take his name and then we release him and we say, ‘Please show up to court in a couple of months.' You know what the chances of getting him to court are? Like zero. It's crazy."
Trump then reiterated his long-stated desire to end the diversity visa lottery program, which randomly grants visas to foreigners and their families from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.
The compromise bill would end the practice of separating families at the border and provide legal protections to so-called Dreamers, immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, including a pathway to citizenship for at least some of them. The bill would also authorize funding for a border wall and rollback some protections for asylum seekers and unaccompanied child migrants.
The more conservative measure would include reductions to legal immigration, among other measures.