PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump declared Sunday that a deal to help “Dreamer” immigrants was “NO MORE” and threatened to pull out of a free trade agreement with Mexico unless it does more to stop people from crossing into the U.S. He claimed they’re coming to take advantage of protections granted certain immigrants.
“NO MORE DACA DEAL!” Trump tweeted one hour after he started the day by wishing his followers a “HAPPY EASTER!”
He also said Mexico must “stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!” The U.S., Canada and Mexico are currently renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement at Trump’s insistence. Trump says NAFTA is bad for the U.S.
“Mexico has got to help us at the border,” Trump told reporters before he attended Easter services at an Episcopal church near his Palm Beach, Florida, home, as he held his wife, Melania’s, hand. “If they’re not going to help us at the border, it’s a very sad thing between our two countries.”
“A lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA,” he added.
Former President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to protect from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally after they were brought here as children. Trump ended the program last year, but gave Congress six months to pass legislation enshrining it. A deal has so far proved elusive and Trump has blamed Democrats for that.
It was not immediately clear what Trump was referring to when he said people are coming to take advantage of the program, which granted the immigrants work permits.
The Department of Homeland Security is not issuing new permits, though existing ones can be renewed. Anyone who wanted to participate in the program had a set period of time during which to sign up, and the program is no longer open to new entrants. Proposed DACA deals crafted by lawmakers also were not open to new participants.
Trump did not explain what he meant when reporters asked as he entered the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea with the first lady and Tiffany Trump, his daughter from his second marriage. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.
Trump, who addressed reporters briefly before entering the church, again blamed Democrats for failing to protect the “Dreamers.”
“They had a great chance. The Democrats blew it. They had a great, great chance, but we’ll have to take a look because Mexico has got to help us at the border. They flow right through Mexico. They send them into the United States. It can’t happen that way anymore.”
Trump promised during the 2016 presidential campaign to build a southern border wall to stop illegal immigration and drugs from Mexico, but Congress has frustrated the president by not moving as quickly as he wants to provide money to start construction.
The president also complained on Twitter that Border Patrol agents can’t do their jobs properly because of “ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws” that allow people caught for being in the country illegally to be released while they await a hearing before a federal immigration judge.
Trump tweeted that the situation is “Getting more dangerous” and “Caravans” are coming. He did not offer details to back his comment.
Some fellow Republicans chided Trump over the tone of the tweets.
“A true leader preserves & offers hope, doesn’t take hope from innocent children who call America home. Remember, today is Easter Sunday,” tweeted Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Trump critic who challenged Trump for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
In Colorado, DACA recipients told Denver7 there has been so much back and forth on the issue, they aren't sure what to believe.
"You just kind of have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis," Juan Gallegos said.
The dreamer and Director of Civic Engagement and Legal Services for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition said being a recipient under President Trump's administration has been exhausting.
"Today, he swings one way, tomorrow he swings the other," Gallegos said. "In the meantime, I'm just going to continue to live my life and do the best I can."
Gallegos elaborated and said he was doing the "best he can" under all the uncertainty.
You'll remember President Trump announced an end to the DACA program back in September 5 of 2017.
Gallegos said that was the start of what he describes as a pattern of the President's push-and-pull.
In March, the president addressed the country, "I say this to DACA recipients, that the Republicans are with you. They want to get your situation taken care of."
A few days later, he tweeted to the more than 800,000 dreamers, "Remember DACA-- the Democrats abandoned you (but we will not)"
Much can be done with the $1.6 Billion given to building and fixing the border wall. It is just a down payment. Work will start immediately. The rest of the money will come - and remember DACA, the Democrats abandoned you (but we will not)!
Then came the Easter morning tweet that announced, "NO MORE DACA DEAL."
"My hope right now is in Congress," Gallegos said. "If Congress does its job, then Donald Trump will have a reason to do his."
Gallegos said he's not concerned about the president's tweets, but more about action from Congress.
"Tomorrow, he'll hear about the great things the DACA recipients are doing for this nation, and for the economy of this nation... and he'll change his mind," Gallegos said.
The church visit was Trump’s first public appearance with the first lady since CBS “60 Minutes” aired an interview last Sunday with adult film star Stormy Daniels, who says she had sex with Trump in 2006, early in his marriage and a few months after the first lady had given birth to their son. The White House says Trump denies the affair.
Mrs. Trump spent the past week in Palm Beach, most of it without the president.
The Trumps were returning to Washington later Sunday.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.