WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump spoke in unusually personal terms as he answered a question at a White House press conference about hundreds of thousands of young immigrants whose fate rests in his hands.
"We're going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have," the president said Thursday in a rare admission of uncertainty. "Because you have these incredible kids, in many cases," he said.
Trump was referring to his predecessor's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young people who were brought into the country illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits. The program has protected about 750,000 immigrants since its inception in 2012.
Trump had promised during his campaign to "immediately terminate" what he'd deemed "President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties." But he has yet to move forward on the issue, despite pressure from immigration hard-liners, including Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
While he had previously suggested those covered by the program would be safe from immediate deportation, the president has yet to say whether they will be allowed to continue living and working in a country that is the only many have known.
On Thursday, Trump suggested he still has work to do to convince reluctant congressional leaders to get on board.
"I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don't forget. And I have to convince them that what I'm saying is, is right," he said. But the president suggested that he's been mulling a solution that goes beyond simply overturning DACA, as he had pledged.
"You know, I love these kids. I love kids. I have kids and grandkids. And I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do," he said. "And you know the law is rough. I'm not talking about new laws. I'm talking the existing law is very rough. It's very, very rough."
Immigration lawyers, activists and those protected by the program have been waiting anxiously for any signs of what Trump might do since he took office last month.
The issue returned to the headlines this week after a Seattle-area man participating in the program was detained by immigration agents.
The U.S. Justice Department said Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, admitted to having gang ties. But one of Ramirez' lawyers, Mark Rosembaum, has said the allegations are false.
Trump's comments came as immigrants across the country were staying home from work and school as part of "A Day Without Immigrants" national protest. Many businesses have closed in solidarity to demonstrate the importance of immigrants to the American economy.
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