WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday appeared to endorse a sweeping immigration deal that would eventually grant millions of undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, saying he would be willing to “take the heat” politically for an approach that many of his hard-line supporters have long viewed as unacceptable.
The president made the remarks during an extended meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats who are weighing a shorter-term agreement that would extend legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Mr. Trump has said such a deal must be accompanied by new money for a border wall and measures to limit immigrants from bringing family members into the country in the future, conditions he repeated during the meeting on Tuesday.
But in backing a broader immigration measure, Mr. Trump was giving a rare public glimpse of an impulse he has expressed privately to advisers and lawmakers — the desire to preside over a more far-reaching solution to the status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living and working in the United States. Such action has the potential to alienate the hard-line immigration activists who powered his political rise and helped him win the presidency, many of whom have described it as amnesty for lawbreakers.
“If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat,” Mr. Trump told Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who floated the idea during the meeting in the White House Cabinet Room on Tuesday. “You are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
The White House meeting was extraordinary, an extended negotiating session that was televised by the news channels. Mr. Trump repeatedly went back to his call for a broad and comprehensive immigration bill, even as Democratic and Republican lawmakers cautioned him of the failures of the past. Some Republicans pointedly said Mr. Trump was being too ambitious. Even Democrats worried that more immediate immigration matters might fail to pass with the broader package now on the table.
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis for THE NEW YORK TIMES
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