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Trump's message on DACA, Dreamers loses its coherence

A week after stripping Dreamers of their legal protections, Donald Trump seems ready and eager to extend legal protections to Dreamers.
Image: 58th U.S. Presidential Inauguration
WASHINGTON, USA - JANUARY 20: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) President-elect Donald Trump greets House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Congressional...

Last week, when Donald Trump's administration rescinded the DACA policy that extended protections to nearly 1 million Dreamers, the New York Times noted an interesting behind-the-scenes detail: White House officials were reportedly worried that the president didn't "fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take."

The piece added that these same officials "privately expressed concern" that when Trump discovered the "full impact" of his policy shift, he might reverse course.

Keep this in mind when trying to make sense of the latest developments on DACA.

Last night, Congress' top two Democrats -- Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi -- issued a joint written statement that surprised much of political world, explaining that they'd reached some kind of agreement with the president "to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that's acceptable to both sides."

The idea that there's a bipartisan deal to protect Dreamers, not surprisingly, delighted progressives and infuriated conservatives, but this morning, Trump seemed to walk back the news via Twitter:

"No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote."

It's not altogether clear what this meant -- any deal would obviously be subject to congressional approval -- but "no deal was made last night on DACA" seemed pretty unambiguous.

That clarity, however, quickly evaporated. Almost immediately after Trump said there was no DACA deal, he quickly proceeded to lay out a blueprint for a DACA deal -- which sounded an awful lot like the Democratic leaders' position from last night.

In a pair of follow-up tweets, the Republican president added, "Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really! They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own -- brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security."

Oh. So we've reached the point at which Trump wants to protect the young immigrants who, just last week, he wanted to strip protections from. If the president's missives relate to his own administration's position -- with this gang, it's sometimes hard to know for sure -- he's willing to trade a DACA policy for more border security, but no border wall, which is a deal Democrats would gladly take.

Indeed, soon after Trump published those tweets, Pelosi and Schumer issued another joint statement, "President Trump's tweets are not inconsistent with the agreement reached last night."

There are still plenty of details that would need to be worked out, but it sounds like the party leaders have laid the groundwork for a deal.

That is, at least for now. Maybe congressional Republicans will balk. Maybe the White House will say Trump didn't mean what he said and wrote. Maybe the president will change his mind again. Maybe a lot of things.

The only certainty here is that Trump seems lost without a map. During the campaign, he vowed to rescind DACA and subject Dreamers to deportation. After the election, he said Dreamers can "rest easy." Last week, Trump scrapped the DACA policy, only to suggest soon after he's prepared to "revisit" the issue if Congress doesn't act.

The president also told reporters last week that when it comes to Dreamers, there's been "no mixed signal at all." Reality paints a different picture.

Update: Before departing for Florida, Trump seemed to confirm suspicions, telling reporters his fight for a border wall will "come later." He went on to dismiss the idea that Dreamer protections constitute "amnesty,"