Trump’s Soft Spot for Dreamers Alienates Immigration Hard-Liners

“To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have, because you have these incredible kids,” Mr. Trump said at a recent White House news conference. He said he would deal with the matter with “great heart,” but nodded to the political difficulty of doing so.

Mr. Trump added: “I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don’t forget. And I have to convince them that what I’m saying is right.”

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump’s inaction on the issue was rooted in sympathy for the Dreamers, coupled with a desire to create a careful plan for addressing their status. The administration, consumed with sweeping directives to increase deportations of other undocumented immigrants, does not have the capacity to manage the issue, he said.

“His thinking is: ‘We don’t have to deal with this right now. I want to hear more. I want to plan how we deal with this,’” Mr. Spicer said. “Let’s not start to create a problem that doesn’t exist right now. We’re not capable of handling it right now — we’ve got to deal with the first million.”

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Supporters of Mr. Trump held a protest against a pro-immigration rally in Los Angeles on Feb. 18. The president is coming under intense pressure from the immigration hard-liners in his Republican base to keep his promise to end DACA.

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David Mcnew/Getty Images

Inside the White House, the president’s advisers are concerned that he has repeatedly referred to Dreamers, many of whom are in their 20s and 30s, in such sympathetic and politically loaded terms. “Our immigration folks are like, ‘Stop calling them kids,’” Mr. Spicer said.

The president is weighing a variety of strategies for dealing with the roughly 840,000 Dreamers, according to senior officials, including Mr. Priebus, and…

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