Where Do Trump's Comments On DACA Leave Congressional Republicans?

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump appears to be ready to work with the Democratic leadership to compromise on DACA, the deferred action program protecting the children of undocumented immigrants. This puts some congressional Republicans in a bit of a tight spot. After all, President Trump campaigned on tightening immigration laws. Here he is on the campaign trail.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That wall will go up so fast and be so big and powerful and as good looking as we can make it that your head will spin, OK?

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TRUMP: Believe me. It's going to go up fast. Thank you.

GREENE: This morning, we have North Carolina congressman Mark Walker on the line. He's chairman of the Republican study group. This is the largest conservative caucus in the house with about 150 members. Congressman, good morning. Thanks for coming on.

MARK WALKER: Good morning. Thanks for having me. Good to be with you.

GREENE: Well, so do you support President Trump seeking some way to keep DACA in place?

WALKER: I am very supportive of a long-term solution. I believe this can be coupled with a level of border security. And I believe - as much as we overuse the word bipartisan these days - I do believe there's an opportunity to work together. It wasn't too long ago that we did all agree - both sides - that we did need to increase border security. But I do believe there's a pathway through this.

GREENE: OK, well, that - you're making it sound like compromise is not so far away. I mean, I certainly wasn't in the room, sadly, when President Trump met with Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (laughter). But all the signs are that they are willing to increase security. President Trump is looking for a way to keep DACA in place. I mean, are you - feel like you're close to being part of this compromise?

WALKER: Well, I - here's my background. At the - before I arrived in Congress, I was a pastor for 18 years and certainly traveled the world, worked in refugee camps. In fact, just two weeks ago, I sat down and met with 14 Hispanic pastors from across the state. So I certainly hope it will bring a level of compassion to this.

We obviously have to make sure that our laws are in place and that we're adhering to them. But I do believe there is some room if we're able to - I believe that the border-security component comes first. But I do believe there is a way to work this out long-term. We can remove the conversation of deportation when it comes to DACA off the table.

GREENE: OK, I just want to be really clear here. You are willing to remove that deportation off the table and keep DACA in place if you are satisfied that there is enough security measures in place and some sort of deal. So let me ask you this. Does there need to...

WALKER: Let me make sure I'm very clear on that.

GREENE: Sure, sure.

WALKER: Keeping DACA in place - I want to make sure that it's not that - perfectly clear. I believe there's a long-term solution. It may be components of that - of DACA in place. There might be some tweaks here and there. I don't know that it's as simple as say, OK, DACA's in place. Let's secure the border. It's all home free. There's some minutia that you have to get into.

GREENE: Well, what - I mean, President Trump put a six-month deadline on this. What do you need to see to be satisfied and to sign on to a compromise to meet that six-month window?

WALKER: I think we have to have some willingness. We have six - maybe seven different particular pieces of legislation that are in the Judiciary Committee right now that has both the internal as well as the enforcement components. I believe that if we're able to get those through, get some support - I believe you'll have a lot of Republicans being willing to take a look at this.

Now, in the past, we - it's not getting anywhere when it comes to building those kinds of relationships with our friends across the aisle in support of border security. And maybe that's been their bargaining chip, as well. But I believe it's going to be a very interesting next two to three months. In fact, this has become an issue along with tax reform and getting the health care legislation worked out that's fast approaching. Three major issues that I believe the 115th Congress - I believe the grade will come out in the next two to three months, depending on how well we handle these three issues.

GREENE: Let me just ask you about the border wall that President Trump spoke so much about. Is that a requirement for you to support some sort of deal? Or could you see supporting an immigration compromise that did not include immediately building that wall?

WALKER: I believe there are parts of the border where we do need to finish the wall, finish the fence. There are some places where there's terrain. There's a private property issues for folks that have Rio Grande property on the river. And I don't know that you can come in and just practice eminent domain. As Republicans and as conservatives, we've always preached against that. So there are some complexities as far as just a blanket statement - that yes, we're going to put a wall across the border. However, I do believe there are places where that could help prevent some of the legal situation that we have right now.

GREENE: OK, but you're - a wall is not a requirement in some sort of deal that you'd support?

WALKER: Not a complete, across the border. But I do believe there are places where we could enhance the wall, maybe stretch it out even a few more miles. But I don't think that we can go from border to border, from Florida to Texas.

GREENE: Let me just ask you about - I know you met with Vice President Mike Pence a few days ago. What came up? Did DACA come up? And did he give you some reassurance about what the president's thinking?

WALKER: Yes, yes, he did. In fact, that was the same night we were meeting with the vice president, about eight or nine of us - that the president was also meeting with Pelosi and Schumer. We did talk a little bit about what the plan will be long-term. We also talked about some other issues. But I believe there is a move. I believe it's legitimate. I don't believe this was just a - an impromptu - just something off the cuff by the president. I believe this is something that's important to his family, as well.

GREENE: OK, Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina. He chairs the Republican study group. Thanks a lot for the time this morning.

WALKER: Thank you. I have one correction. I said something about Florida to Texas. I meant Texas to California on the wall. But thank you for the time.

GREENE: Got you. All right, thanks. Thanks for correcting that, congressman.

WALKER: Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.