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Trump says 'good chance' Democrats will back his immigration, border plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Friday acknowledged he would need some support from Democrats to support his immigration and border agenda, even as opponents soundly rejected his latest proposals as the immigration issue heats up ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections.

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A day after unveiling a plan to shift to a “merit-based” immigration system, the Republican president said there was a “good chance” that Democrats would back him and provide funding to manage record migrant flows along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The Democrats now realise that there is a National Emergency at the Border and that, if we work together, it can be immediately fixed. We need Democrat votes and all will be well!” Trump said in a series of early morning tweets on Friday.

Such talk of bipartisan cooperation on the explosive immigration issue for years has ended in failure and finger-pointing. Even though the issue is now back on Trump’s agenda, Democrats have shown little interest in compromise.

On Thursday, the president called for legal immigration changes that would favour young, educated, English-speaking applicants, instead of people with family ties to those already living in the United States. The proposal, drafted by Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, has little chance of being approved by the divided Congress.

The proposals do not address one of the Democrats’ key issues: protection for “Dreamers,” the roughly 11 million people brought to the Unites States illegally as children. At the same time, Trump is pushing ahead with building portions of a U.S.-Mexico border barrier with money he is diverting from other purposes without lawmakers’ approval.

As a result of these and other shortcomings, the president’s latest plan was “dead on arrival,” U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.

His proposal also drew concerns from hardline conservatives who want to reduce immigration; Trump’s plan keeps overall numbers flat.

Moderate Republicans dismissed Kushner’s plan, calling it too narrow to pass Congress. “That’s going to be difficult to pass in Congress. The far right is upset with it because it doesn’t decrease net immigration. The far left is upset with it because it doesn’t do these other things,” Republican Representative Will Hurd told MSNBC in an interview on Friday.

White House senior counsellor Kellyanne Conway defended the proposal in a Fox News interview Thursday night, saying it was “not the final word.”

Trump tied his plan to next year’s elections when he unveiled it on Thursday, saying that if Democrats did not support him, Republicans would win back the House in November 2020 and then pass his programme -- something they failed to do when they held a majority in the House, as well as the Senate, during the first two years of his presidency.

A bipartisan immigration deal hammered out last year failed after Trump refused to back it.

Trump has separately requested $4.5 billion from lawmakers to help house, feed, transport and oversee Central American families seeking asylum.

Pelosi on Thursday appeared open to approving the emergency funds, saying money to alleviate the humanitarian crisis at the nation’s southern border could be included in pending disaster relief legislation.

Democrats on Thursday night offered Republicans “several billion” dollars for border relief, a House aide said.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Jeffrey Benkoe and Leslie Adler