WASHINGTON — So far, President Trump has demonstrated, perhaps, the most political flexibility with the most surprising issue.
Despite thundering during the campaign that he would end on "day one" the Obama-era program that allowed DREAMers who came to the country as children to stay in the US and work, the program is still in place— much to the consternation of hardliners like Rep. Steve King and the president of NumbersUSA Roy Beck. Conservative news outlets that have pointedly asked why the program still exists during White House briefings.
Trump has attributed his personal difficulty with the still-up-in-the-air program to the feelings he has towards these "incredible kids," whom he says the administration will treat with "great heart."
“The DACA situation is a very difficult thing for me as I love these kids," Trump said two weeks ago during his marathon press conference. "I love kids, I have kids and grandkids and I find it very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and, you know, the law is rough. It’s rough, very very rough.”
Trump went further in a meeting with national news anchors Tuesday, according to six attendees who spoke to BuzzFeed News, telling them that DREAMers don't need to worry about deportation. In the meeting he also said he was open to an immigration compromise and a potential path to citizenship for DREAMers.
But the president's love and heart appear to have limits. Trump also said during his press conference that some may be DACA-recipients and gang members, the exact charge immigration officials made against Seattle DREAMer Daniel Ramirez, who was detained two weeks ago with the government arguing that he is a gang member, which Ramirez denies.
A day after Trump met with news anchors and addressed Congress and the nation, DREAMer Daniela Vargas was detained by federal agents moments after leaving a news conference where she spoke about her fear of being deported.
At issue is that Trump's pen has already done what he says his heart is struggling with. His executive order on interior enforcement gave tremendous leeway for immigration agents to go after almost any undocumented immigrant lawfully.
And while his Tuesday speech was lauded by pundits as an example of Trump becoming presidential, Democrats and activists were troubled by his invitation to multiple family members of victims of violence by undocumented immigrants and the creation of an office to chronicle the crimes of people in the country illegally.
Sarah Sanders, Trump's deputy press secretary, reiterated to BuzzFeed News that the administration line, often articulated by press secretary Sean Spicer, on DACA and DREAMers had not changed: the the administration is focused on deporting criminals and strengthening border security. She declined to get ahead of the president on any further announcements concerning DACA.
Daniel Garza, the executive director of the Koch brothers-backed LIBRE Initiative and a former Trump critic, said the president can make sure the cases of individual DREAMers don't dominate the headlines in the coming months by doing better than Obama did.
"It will be up to Trump to embolden a majority of Republican members in the House to drive a permanent solution, otherwise we will face these situations over and over," he said.