What Will Trump Do About Immigration? His Comments Threw Republicans Into Total Disarray

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Conflicting messages from President Donald Trump and the White House have left Republicans struggling to understand where the president stands on immigration ahead of what is expected to be showdown votes on two immigration bills. In an interview Friday, President Trump said he wouldn't sign the more moderate of the two immigration bills should it pass through Congress. Although the White House later attempted to walk back the president's statement, Trump's remarks on immigration have left many Republicans confused.

"I'm looking at both of them," President Trump told Fox and Friends in reference to the two immigration bills — one, a strict conservative measure the other, a more moderate proposal — expected to be voted on by members of the House next week. "I certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one," Trump went on to say.

Trump's comments left a number of Republicans scratching their head in confusion, causing a shadow of doubt to be cast over the future of immigration reform as the GOP struggled to understand exactly where the president stood on immigration. According to Vox, the more moderate immigration bill drawn up by House leadership had been explicitly drafted to address Trump's desired "four pillars" — making the president's apparent opposition to the bill all the more bewildering.

At his State of the Union address in January, Trump said he wanted an immigration deal that included his "four pillars:" funding for a wall along the country's southern border; eliminating the diversity visa lottery; reducing family-based or "chain" immigration; and a pathway to legal immigration status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

According to CBS News, conflicting messages of support had also been passed along to Congressional Republicans. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has applauded the more moderate bill as "a very good compromise," told fellow Republicans earlier in the week that the president supported the moderate immigration legislation. Meanwhile, White House aide Stephen Miller reportedly told conservatives that Trump supported their bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte.

The White House later moved to walk back Trump's comment on Fox and Friends, saying in a statement released Friday that he'd been confused and misspoke. White House spokesman Raj Shah said the president endorsed both immigration bills and had simply been referring to a separate effort by moderate Republicans to force a vote on legislation protecting DREAMers through a discharge petition.

"The president fully supports both the Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill," the New York Times reported Shah said in a statement. "In this morning's interview, he was commenting on the discharge petition in the House, and not the new package. He would sign either the Goodlatte or the [moderate] leadership bills."

President Trump later took to Twitter to clarify his desire to see funding for the wall he has proposed building along the U.S.-Mexico border as well as an end to a number of the current immigration system's existing components. "Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration," Trump wrote Friday. "Go for it! WIN!"

The "must haves" Trump mentioned are included in the moderate immigration package bur are reportedly not components of the hard-line conservative immigration bill. This has lead to some speculation that Trump's tweet was meant as an unofficial endorsement of the moderate immigration package.

According to CBS News, Republicans pushing the moderate bill don't have much flexibility when it comes to losing support — and thus votes — for their package as Democrats are expected to oppose both bills.

Faced with conflicting statements from Trump and the White House, one GOP legislator said Republicans wouldn't attempt to take on immigration reform alone. "House Republicans are not going to take on immigration without the support and endorsement of President Trump," CBS reported Rep. Patrick McHenry said.