Young immigrants brought to the US as children and now in the country illegally can “rest easy”, President Donald Trump has said. He told the “dreamers” they will not be targets for deportation under his immigration policies.
The president said his administration is “not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals”. Mr Trump, who took a hard line on immigration as a candidate, vowed to fulfil his promise to construct a wall along the US-Mexico border. But he did not say funding must be included in a spending bill Congress has to pass by the end of next week to keep government running.
“I want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall,” Mr Trump said in the Oval Office interview. Asked whether he would sign legislation that does not include money for it, he said: “I just don’t know yet.” Throughout the campaign, he firmly and repeatedly guaranteed that Mexico, not US taxpayers, would pay for the wall.
Eager to progress on other promises, Mr Trump said he would unveil a tax overhaul package next week – “Wednesday or shortly thereafter” – including a “massive” tax cut for individuals and corporations.
He would not detail rate proposals or how he planned to pay for the package but said cuts for Americans will be “bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever”.
Congressional Republicans did not appear to have been briefed on the White House’s plan.
Mr Trump spoke with the Associated Press ahead of his 100th day in office but said that marker was “artificial”.
The White House is eager to tout progress on the agenda he promised for his first 100 days, despite setbacks including court bans on his immigration limits and a high-profile failure over health care law.
The president said he spent his first 100 days laying the “foundation” for progress later, including building relationships with foreign leaders.
He cited German chancellor Angela Merkel as a leader he was surprised to have strong chemistry with, given that he has been critical of her immigration policies. As a candidate, Mr Trump criticised president Barack Obama for “illegal executive amnesties”, including to spare from deportation young people brought to the US as children and now there illegally.
But after the election, he started speaking more favourably about these immigrants, popularly dubbed “dreamers.” He said when it comes to them “this is a case of heart”. On foreign policy, Mr Trump said it was “possible” the US will withdraw from the nuclear accord with Iran forged by Mr Obama and five other world leaders.
He said he believes Iran’s destabilising actions “all over the Middle East and beyond” are violating the spirit of the accord. But the State Department this week certified that Tehran is complying with the tenets of the deal aimed at curbing its nuclear programme.
The president also appeared to side with his advisers’ increasingly harder line on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Mr Assange’s arrest was a priority for the Justice Department as it steps up efforts to prosecute people who leak classified information.
The president said he was not involved in the decision-making process regarding charging Mr Assange but the move would be “okay with me”. During the campaign, Mr Trump and his allies publicly delighted in WikiLeaks’ release of stolen emails from a top adviser to Democrat Hillary Clinton.