Immigrants who were brought into the US as children and are currently living there illegally can “rest easy”, Donald Trump has said.
The US President ended speculation that he might scrap the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows the children of irregular migrants, known in the US as “dreamers”, to study and work legally.
But despite although he is known for his anti-immigration stance, Mr Trump said his administration is “not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals.”
There are currently around 770,000 people enrolled in the DACA program, which is open to immigrants who can prove they arrived in the US before the age of 16.
In previous interviews, the President had refused to confirm the status of the dreamers, while in January, an apparently authentic draft of an executive order scrapping the scheme was leaked to the press.
However, not all those enrolled on the DACA program feel able to “rest easy” just yet.
Juan Escalante, a 28-year-old who came to the U.S. from Venezuela at age 11, told The Chicago Tribune he was “not comforted by the president’s words” because “he has said he will treat us with ‘heart’ and to ‘rest easy,’ and it just seems so general.”
However, Mr Trump said he was keen to push on with other flagship immigration policies, such as the expansion of a border wall with Mexico.
“I want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall”
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Pressed on how the wall would ultimately be funded, the President was less forthcoming.
On the campaign trail, he repeatedly told voters that Mexico, not US taxpayers, would pay for the wall.
More recently, the Trump administration has signalled that it would ask Congress for the money, claiming the US taxpayer would be reimbursed by Mexico at a later date.
It had been thought the Trump administration would try to get $1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) for the wall through Congress as part of a spending bill for federal agencies that has to pass by 28 April.
However, the Democrats may be able to scupper this plan, if they block a federal funding bill, triggering a complete government shutdown.