Donald Trump's plan to end a programme shielding young people brought to the US illegally by their parents from deportation looked in doubt today after evangelical leaders said they were 'deeply concerned' and a US judge temporarily blocked the move.
Trump's policies on immigration appeared to be in chaos last night after a bizarre performance in which the President appeared repeatedly to contradict himself during discussions with Senate and Congressional leaders in Washington, and ended the gathering by saying he will sign what he is presented with even if he does not 'love' the plans.
CNN reported that Trump said: 'I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. If they come to me with things I'm not in love with, I'm going to do it. Because I respect them.'
Meanwhile, a US judge in San Francisco temporarily barred Trump's administration from proceeding with its September announcement that it would rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a decision that was challenged in multiple federal courts by a variety of Democratic state attorneys general, organisations and individuals.
US District Judge William Alsup ruled in San Francisco yesterday that the programme must remain in place while the litigation is resolved.
The developments came after evangelical leaders including Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference wrote an open letter to members of Congress appealing for a rethink on the issue of the 700,000 young people previously facing deportation, known as Dreamers.
They wrote: 'As evangelical leaders, we have long been deeply concerned about the situation of Dreamers. Our concern is rooted in our commitment to the Bible, which speaks repeatedly of God's love and concern for both immigrants and for children: these young immigrants who were brought to the US as children – on average, at the age of six – are in a uniquely vulnerable situation...[We] believe that it is unjust to hold these young people responsible for decisions made by their parents.
'The plight of Dreamers is also very personal to us. These Dreamers include many committed members of our local churches, students at our Christian college, university, and seminary campuses, and volunteers and staff members within our organizations...We are disappointed that, nearly four months after the announcement of the termination of the DACA program, there has still been no legislative solution for these young people.'
Alsup's decision follows a number of rulings by other US judges seeking to rein in Trump's immigration policies, including decisions that limited administration moves against sanctuary cities and narrowed the scope of a ban against travel from some Muslim-majority counties.
Alsup ruled that the federal government did not have to process new applications from people who had never before received protection under the programme. However, he ordered the government to continue processing renewal applications from people who had previously been covered.
In the meeting yesterday, Trump appeared to say that he would back a two-phased approach to overhauling US immigration laws. The first step would focus on protecting Dreamers from deportation, along with funding for a wall and other restrictions that Democrats have opposed.
Trump said he then favours moving quickly to address even more contentious issues, including a possible pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants that is opposed by many Republicans and many of his supporters.
Dr Rodriguez, who has been previously critical of the Trump administration on this and other immigration-related issues, said after the meeting: 'What we saw take place on camera, for nearly an hour today, on the topic of Dreamers and immigration reform, was extraordinary...I commend President Trump's handling of today's meeting and am greatly encouraged by his stated desire to sign whatever legislation both parties agree to. We also commend congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle who have made Dreamers a top legislative priority in the weeks ahead.
Trump ran on a hardline immigration platform during the 2016 presidential election, promising to end DACA and strengthen border protections to increase jobs for US workers.
Additional reporting by Reuters.