TULSA — President Trump will extend a March 5 deadline to end protections for young undocumented immigrants if Congress fails to act by then, according to a Republican senator who spoke directly with the president about the issue.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Trump told him he was willing to “give it some more time” to allow lawmakers to find a solution for “dreamers,” unauthorized immigrants brought to this country as children, if Congress does not pass legislation extending protections before time is up.
“The president’s comment to me was that, ‘We put a six-month deadline out there. Let’s work it out. If we can’t get it worked out in six months, we’ll give it some more time, but we’ve got to get this worked out legislatively,’ ” Lankford said outside a town hall here Thursday night.
Trump did not specify how long an extension might last, Lankford said.
“He wants a legislative solution,” the senator said. “His focus was, ‘We’ve got to get a legislative solution.’ ”
A Lankford spokesman, D.J. Jordan, said Trump made the comments during a phone call with the senator last month.
The White House did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.
The president hinted at this possibility in a tweet Sept. 5, the day he announced that his administration would end an Obama-era program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that allows these immigrants to stay in the country without fear of deportation.
Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the program an unconstitutional use of executive authority in the face of the threat of lawsuits from Texas and other states.
“Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA,” Trump wrote Sept. 5. “If they can’t, I will revisit the issue!”
There are currently 690,000 young people with DACA status, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Extending the program could potentially restart those legal threats and create an administrative headache at DHS, which last week stopped accepting any more renewal applications for DACA recipients.
By Elise Viebeck for THE WASHINGTON POST
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