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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer Discusses DACA Meeting With Trump

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland was part of that bipartisan immigration meeting today in Washington. He has been a part of the Democratic leadership team for a long time, and he sat at the president's side at that meeting today. Welcome.

STENY HOYER: Good to be with you, Ari. Thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: You and your Democratic colleagues want to put in place permanent protections for DREAMers, and the president, some Republicans have signaled a willingness to move on that in exchange for funding for a border wall and other security measures. So I wonder what kind of compromise you and your Democratic colleagues would agree to.

HOYER: Well, I think a compromise is possible. We're for border security, and the president talks about border security. Now sometimes he talks about a wall. But he also talks about border security, which is more general application. We want to have the borders secure. So I think there is a possibility of reaching an agreement, and I hope that we can do so.

SHAPIRO: Would you fund a wall?

HOYER: In fact - well, that's a tougher question. But if we're talking about border security and how to attain border security, a more general discussion I think within that context, we can reach an agreement, and we hope to try to do so. One of the good things that happened in the meeting - the president asked about the people - there were 24 members sitting around the table with the president. Who here wants to address the DACA question and protect the DACA young people? Every person sitting in the room said, yes, we want to do that.

So there was - nobody in the room was not for making sure that the DACA children are not kicked out of their home country in effect. They pledge allegiance to our flag. They sing our national anthem. They believe they are Americans. So there was unanimity on that, and therefore I think there's a context in which we can move forward and get an agreement. We're going to work very hard in the short term to do that.

SHAPIRO: Could you give us some examples of border security measures that you would be willing to agree to?

HOYER: Well, obviously there are many ways to secure the border. One is more agents on the border. Another is technical measures such as drones, electronic fences, electronic implants along the highway and the roadways. There are a lot of ways to effect border security which many experts believe would be more appropriate and more successful and more effective than simply building a wall. Those discussions I think are going to go forward, and I'm hopeful that we can reach agreement on really how to make the border really secure because I think that's a unanimous position of Democrats and Republicans.

SHAPIRO: There's been a lot of conversation about whether border security has to be one long, uninterrupted wall or whether it can be a combination of measures. Do you think that your Republican colleagues and the president are willing to go along with something that is not one big, solid wall?

HOYER: The president - the answer is yes, and the president said specifically that - that we were not talking about a wall along the entire border. He didn't think that was practical. He didn't think it was necessary. The answer to your question is, no, it does not have to be nor did the president suggested it be one long wall.

SHAPIRO: The president is asking for $18 billion for border security including the wall. Does that number sound anything like what you could imagine Democrats signing on to spend on border security?

HOYER: The numbers were not specifically discussed in the meeting, nor was that made a condition for a bill which would protect DREAMers and provide them a path towards citizenship. So the 18 billion is not a figure that really was in the discussion. So it did not seem to be a condition.

SHAPIRO: You sound pretty optimistic that a deal will be reached. Do you think that's a widespread view?

HOYER: I think optimism would be overstated. But certainly I thought it was a positive meeting, and I think it was constructive. And I think that there's a possibility that working together over the next hours and few days, we may well be able to reach an agreement on a first phase with the understanding that the Republicans may want things in a second phase that we will not agree to.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland is the Democratic whip in the House of Representatives. We appreciate your time today. Thank you.

HOYER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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