President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would sign a “preemptive” effort to keep illegal immigrant families together, previewing executive action on the issue.
“We have compassion, we want to keep families together. It’s very important,” Trump said. “I’ll be signing something in a little while that’s going to do that and the people in this room want to do that and they’re working on various pieces of legislation to get it done.”
Trump spoke about his plans during a White House meeting with Republican members of Congress about trade and immigration enforcement. His tone was markedly different from comments he made on Tuesday defending his administration’s commitment to enforcing the law.
“We have to be very strong on the border but at the same time we want to be very compassionate,” he said.
The president admitted that his executive action might not hold up in the courts, but cited former President Barack Obama’s DACA executive amnesty as an inspiration.
“When he signed it, he said I’m really not allowed to sign it, I’m going to sign it anyway,” he said commenting that several judges actually held up the legality of Obama’s executive action.
Establishment Republicans grew increasingly nervous about the dramatic media coverage of the zero tolerance border enforcement policies, signaled growing concern during the meeting.
Trump said he wanted more legal immigrants coming into the United States based on merit.
“We’re going to need those people because we have so many companies coming to the country,” he said.
Trump reminded the members that many smugglers were traveling with unrelated children to make it easier to enter the country.
“They use these children as passports to come into this country,” he said.
The president said that ultimately wanted a comprehensive immigration bill, but was ready to act now to respond to the crisis.
He also canceled the annual congressional picnic at the White House which was scheduled for Thursday.
“It didn’t feel exactly right to me,” Trump said, referring to the current crisis at the border.