WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump lashed out Wednesday at a federal judge who's temporarily blocked him from ending protections for nearly 800,000 young immigrants. The Senate's top Democrat said that despite the ruling, lawmakers and the White House must drive toward a bipartisan deal that would permanently shield them from deportation.
The remarks by Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., came a day after the president and top lawmakers used a White House meeting to agree to pursue a pact that would protect those immigrants and bolster border security.
Talks seemed likely to continue Wednesday, and Trump's comments seemed more a reaction against judicial limitations on his powers than a desire to permanently end the immigrants' protections.
Trump lobbed his salvo after U.S. District Judge William Alsup late Tuesday granted a request by California and other plaintiffs to prevent Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while their lawsuits play out in court. That program, started by former President Barack Obama, shields immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and are living here illegally. Trump has terminated it but given lawmakers until March 5 to craft legislation reviving its protections.
"It just shows everyone how broken and unfair" the court system is, Trump tweeted. He said opponents of his policies "almost always" win in the federal court district where that judge serves.
Schumer said the judge's ruling "is no guarantee of lasting security" because the judge could be overruled later by a higher court.
"The ruling last night in no way diminishes the urgency" for a bipartisan bill protecting the so-called Dreamers, he said. "The iron is hot. We should strike now" and reach a deal, he said.
To add pressure on Republicans, Schumer also said he wanted an immigration deal to be attached to must-pass budget legislation Congress will soon consider. Federal agencies will shut down unless lawmakers pass a bill financing them by Jan. 19, and legislators are also trying to reach agreement on a budget deal financing government for the rest of this year.
An immigration package "must be part of a global deal on the budget," Schumer said.
Republicans controlling Congress have resisted combining immigration and the budget into one bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday that immigration will be handled "separately from the spending negotiation" on "a bill the president is willing to sign."
No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas told reporters Wednesday he'd be "surprised" if an immigration deal can be completed by the Jan. 19 deadline.
On Tuesday, Trump said an immigration deal could be reached in two phases — first by addressing young immigrants and border security with what he called a "bill of love," then by making comprehensive changes that have long eluded Congress. That second bill would likely face long odds for passage, considering long-running disagreements over issues like how to handle all 11 million immigrants illegally in the U.S.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that the immigration issue should "go through the normal legislative process" and pledged Trump "will work with members of both parties to reach a permanent solution."
After Trump and lawmakers spent time meeting privately, the White House and numerous lawmakers said there was agreement to limit the immediate bill to four areas. These were border security, family-based "chain migration," a visa lottery that draws people from diverse countries and how to revive the DACA program.
Trump even flashed some give on his cherished plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, perhaps his highest profiled pledge from last year's presidential campaign. That proposal has been strongly opposed by Democrats and many Republicans as a futile waste of money.
Trump said it needn't be a "2,000-mile wall. We don't need a wall where you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting it. But we do need a wall for a fairly good portion." He'd made similar statements last year, but this time it was in the context of negotiations for actual legislation.
Both parties were already showing signs of divisions over how much to give in upcoming talks. But one conservative foe of giving ground acknowledged the impact of Trump's support.
"There are scores of Republicans who have shifted their position to follow the president," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. He said while he helped head off a bipartisan immigration effort in 2013, "I don't want to promise the result will be the same. This is more momentum than I have ever seen."
But Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who was not there and like Cuellar is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he favored a narrow bill protecting Dreamers with perhaps something negotiable on border security.
One attendee, No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois, said, "The sense of urgency, the commitment to DACA, the fact that the president said to me privately as well as publicly, 'I want to get this done,' I'm going to take him as his word."
Conservatives quickly sounded alarms about a process that would lead to a comprehensive agreement on immigration, a path that has long been anathema to many rank-and-file Republicans.