WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said today that he was "fairly close" to a deal with the Democrats that would allow 800,000 young immigrants, including from India, to stay in the US.
"I think we are fairly close but we have to get massive border security," Trump said after a dinner meeting last night with top Democratic lawmakers Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi and Schumer had earlier claimed that they had reached a deal with Trump to protect about 800,000 young immigrants who came to America illegally as children and were given protection by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme.
Trump had scrapped the DACA programme earlier this month.
The DACA measures also provided temporary permits for work and study.
Trump had said he would cancel the scheme, while giving Congress six months to enact a replacement plan for DACA recipients.
Trump, while speaking to reporters, said, "I think we are fairly close but we have to get massive border security."
"We are working on a plan for DACA. People want to see that happen," Trump said in response to questions.
"You have 800,000 young people brought here, so we are working on a plan and we will see how it works out. We will see what happens. Something will happen," the US president said as he headed to storm-ravaged Florida.
Following talks over dinner at the White House, House Minority Leader Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer said, "We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall (Mexican), that's acceptable to both sides."
"We also urged the President to make permanent the cost-sharing reduction payments, and those discussions will continue," they said in a joint statement.
While Democratic leaders sought to declare the deal as a victory for their priorities, Republican votes will be needed for any immigration overhaul.
Earlier, Trump in a series of tweets had denied that a deal had been reached with the Democrats.
"No deal was made last night on DACA," the president tweeted.
"Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote," he wrote.
"The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built," Trump said, referring to the proposed barrier along the US-Mexico border.
The White House had also pushed back on the account of the agreement provided by the Democratic leaders.
"While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
Trump wants to build a wall along the United States' border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants and the issue was central to his election campaign.
According to a White House official, Trump had a constructive working dinner with the Senate and House Minority Leaders as well as administration officials to discuss policy and legislative priorities.
"These topics included tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure and trade. This is a positive step toward the President's strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans," the official said.
"The Administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle," said the White House official.
According to South Asian Americans Living Together (SAALT), a non-profit organisation, over 27,000 Asian Americans, including 5,500 Indians and Pakistanis, have already received DACA.
An additional estimated 17,000 individuals from India and 6,000 Pakistan respectively are eligible for DACA, placing India in the top ten countries for DACA eligibility, it said.
With the termination of DACA, as announced by the Trump administration, these individuals could face deportation at the discretion of the administration, it said.