The Trump administration is twisting itself into knots to try and explain why a DACA deal wouldn't be 'amnesty'

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that allowing unauthorised immigrants who are protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to lawfully stay in the US does not count as “amnesty.”

Sanders suggested that if President Donald Trump were to sign a bill allowing DACA recipients to stay in the US, it would not include permanent residency.

“The whole definition says deferred, so that takes away the idea of the permanent piece when the idea of DACA, the definition of it, is it’s deferred action, meaning it’s not a permanent process,” Sanders said during Friday’s press briefing.

She added that “massive border security” and “interior enforcement” would have to be included in the plan, which the White House will clarify within the next week or so.

“Some of the specific things we’d like to see: The end to sanctuary cities, expedited removal, more immigration judges, supporting things like the RAISE Act,” she said. “Those are the things that you’ll see us focus on in the coming days.”

The White House has repeatedly danced around what exactly would and would not qualify as “amnesty.” And another administration spokesperson suggested that there could be a permanent component to an immigration deal.

“That could include legal citizenship over a period of time,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsey Walters said aboard Air Force One on Thursday. “But absolutely by no means will this White House discuss amnesty, and the President has made it clear how he feels about no amnesty.”

More confusion was added on Thursday when Trump himself said citizenship was off the table, despite Democratic leaders suggesting the president was supportive of their plan for a pathway to citizenship.

“We’re not looking at citizenship,” Trump said. “We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.”

Amnesty is a highly-charged word in conservative, pro-Trump circles, which is why the White House might be going to great lengths to avoid that characterization.

The situation became especially charged earlier this week after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement implying they had reached an agreement with Trump about DACA during a White House dinner.

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