President Donald Trump said he will soon sign a merit-based immigration measure and would address “in a very Republican way” a program he has sought to end that shields 670,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“We’re going to be signing an immigration act very soon,” Trump told reporters Tuesday at a White House press briefing. “It’s going to be based on merit. It’s going to be very strong.”
Trump has previously said he would seek sweeping changes to US immigration policy through an executive order. Critics — including high-profile lawmakers in the president’s own party — have questioned whether he has the legal authority to overhaul immigration laws without passing legislation through Congress.
The president cast immigration in partisan terms on Tuesday, attacking Democratic rival Joe Biden over what he described as lax policies toward those illegally entering the US Trump is seeking to reprise an issue that helped him win election in 2016 as he lags in polls behind Biden.
Trump, who has been repeatedly stymied on Capitol Hill as he has pursued efforts to toughen immigration criteria, said he believed the Supreme Court provided him new powers when it rejected the administration’s efforts to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which provides legal status for some young migrants in the country illegally.
“Very importantly, we’ll be taking care of people from DACA in a very Republican way,” Trump said.
Last month, a divided Supreme Court rebuked Trump by blocking him from ending the Obama administration program.
Trump has offered no specific explanation of why he believes the Supreme Court decision — which found his administration did not follow proper procedure in eliminating DACA — granted him substantial new immigration authority.
His foray into immigration comes even as the US has largely shut down the issuance of new work visas and green cards for the remainder of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The US on Tuesday reversed a new policy on student visas after a high-profile confrontation with Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and hundreds of other colleges, ending a standoff that could have sent thousands of students back to their home countries and left schools rushing to plan for the fall semester.
US District Judge Allison Burroughs announced at an online hearing on Tuesday that the government had agreed to rescind last week’s requirement that international students take at least one in-person class, even amid the resurgent virus and as colleges prepare online-only coursework.