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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

US VP Pence says `balanced approach' needed on Daca

A three-day government shutdown ended on Monday without resolving the fate of young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, as Democrats had initially demanded

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen wave as they board an airplane ahead of their departure from Ben Gurion International Airport, in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool photo via AP)
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen wave as they board an airplane ahead of their departure from Ben Gurion International Airport, in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool photo via AP)

President Donald Trump is willing to resolve the dispute over young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, but any solution will have to be “a balanced approach”, US vice president Mike Pence said on Tuesday.

A three-day government shutdown ended on Monday without resolving the fate of the so-called "Dreamers", as Democrats had initially demanded. Mr Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) policy in September, but then lobbed the matter to Congress. About 690,000 beneficiaries of the Obama-era programme will face possible deportation if no action is taken by March 5.

With the government reopened, “now we can move forward on issues like the border wall, chain migration, diversity lottery and Daca, that I know the president is willing to resolve and open to resolving, but it will have to be a balanced approach”, Mr Pence said in an interview in Jerusalem, on the final day of a three-country swing through the Middle East.

On Monday, the Republican-led Congress passed a measure signed into law by Mr Trump to fund the federal government through February 8 following the three-day shutdown. But they now have to return to thorny budget issues that have become intertwined with contentious immigration policy.

"We don't have a lot of time in which to get it done," said US Republican senator Mike Rounds.

Mr Trump has previously vacillated on immigration between tough rhetoric demanding a US border wall and a softer tone urging a "bill of love" for Dreamers, prompting Democrats and some Republicans to call him an unreliable negotiating partner.

"Nobody knows for sure that the Republicans & Democrats will be able to reach a deal on Daca by February 8, but everyone will be trying," the president tweeted on Tuesday.

"The Dems have just learnt that a shutdown is not the answer!" he added, also calling for "a big additional focus put on Military Strength and Border Security".

As federal employees returned to work on Tuesday they faced a new furlough in 17 days if lawmakers and Mr Trump do not find another short-term fix or a longer term budget.

A funding bill easily passed after Senate Democratic leaders accepted a pledge by Republicans to hold a debate later over the fate of the Dreamers and related immigration issues.

Many Republicans have said they want to help Dreamer immigrants brought to the US illegally as children.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Mr Pence said he was glad the shutdown finished before Mr Trump’s trip this week to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he said the president would discuss his economic agenda and his “America First” policy. He also predicted Republicans would retain their majority in Congress in upcoming midterm elections.

“The first midterm election in Congress is always a challenge for the party in power in the White House — history records just a few exceptions of that. But I think 2018 is going to be another exception,” he said. “This is a president who in one short year has literally turned around the American economy and restored American credibility on the world stage.”

After announcing, at the end of a Monday night press conference with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that the shutdown was ending, Mr Pence launched into an attack on congressional Democrats. He defended the decision to highlight US partisan divisions while overseas, saying he felt the comments were needed “to set the record straight".